A recent report from US anti-narcotics forces says there has been a dramatic drop in methamphetamine production in the United States, but evidence suggests supply for the market has shifted south of the border, where Mexican cartels have been developing a purer product.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has released data on meth laboratory incidents for 2014 that indicates a sharp decline from previous years. The figures show a 23 percent decrease in meth lab incidents since the previous year, falling from 12,049 in 2013 to 9,306 in 2014. The number of incidents across the country has been steadily falling since 2010, when 15,217 incidents were recorded.
While figures for 2015 are not yet available, local law enforcement authorities from several US states told the Associated Press that the decline is set to continue, with some registering as much as a 48 percent drop in methamphetimine lab seizures so far this year.
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While US-based meth production may be declining, use of the drug continues in the country. Figures for meth use held stable between 2008 and 2012, with 440,000 reported cases of methamphetamine users in 2012, according to the DEA’s most recent report.
Growing seizures recorded by the DEA between 2008 and 2013 in states along the Mexican border suggest that as US production has fallen away, Mexican cartels have stepped in and have been been claiming an ever larger share of the methamphetimine production market. In its 2014 National Drug Threat Assessment, the DEA noted that the majority of methamphetamine in the US is now produced in Mexico
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One factor likely fueling this production migration is access to the precursor chemicals needed to produce methamphetamine. While the US authorities have introduced stricter controls on chemicals commonly used for production in the United States, such as pseudoephedrine, Mexican groups have begun to use phenylacetone, an organic compound banned in the US but accessible in Mexico. This has led to the production of purer methamphetamine, according to DEA officials, who told the AP the quality of the product has risen from an average of 39 percent to nearly 100 percent.
Methamphetamine is an attractive option for Mexican cartels, not only because of the gap in the market, but also because, unlike cocaine, it can be produced in the country, and, unlike marijuana, it can be manufactured rather than cultivated and is less bulky making it easier to smuggle.