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"Super Meth" makes its mark in Tucson

Highly potent drug adds to overdose deaths
Posted at 9:39 PM, Apr 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-07 03:30:17-04

TUCSON, Ariz.(KGUN) — "Super Meth" is here in Tucson and narcotics investigators say it has been a key factor in the number of overdose deaths over the last two years. The drug has been making its way through the streets of Tucson and agents are seizing hundreds of pounds. KGUN9 caught up with Tucson police Captain John Leavitt who runs the Counter Narcotics Alliance. He says super meth has been trafficked in Tucson for years, but the drug busts involving it are getting bigger. Agents recently seized more than 200 pounds of methaphetamine and the numbers continue to grow.

“Super meth is methamphetamine produced at Mexican drug labs that produce meth,” Leavitt said. "It is very high quality, and it’s the predominant version of what meth is in Arizona. Here the high quality of methamphetamine produced in Mexico essentially caused all of the drug labs locally to stop production 20 years ago. As you go to other parts of the country it is less common because the local production of meth provides more of the meth in those communities."

Leavitt also says that super meth is at least 93% pure and the high can last up to 24 hours. Some users add fentanyl to try and balance out their high, but that combination makes it more deadly.

“It’s cheap enough where people are going to max out and eventually overdose and die no matter what form it comes in,” Leavitt said.

According to Pima County Health records in 2021 about 30% of the nearly 500 overdose deaths in the county were from a mixture of opioids and stimulants, including cocaine and meth.

"Super labs in Mexico have applied basic industrial rules to producing methamphetamine. You might find super meth better known as crystal meth or ice,” Leavitt said.

Another note is that meth sold in other parts of the country can be stepped on or mixed before selling, dropping the potency level while it's trafficked.

"Treating meth from a treatment provider's perspective can be more difficult than treating opioid addiction,” Leavitt said. "Meth is still the number two killer for addictive drugs."

Pima County records also show that between January and June of 2020 and the same time frame in 2021, there was a record breaking 59% increase in fentanyl related deaths and most of them were users under 30-years-old.

"The one thing that we can see from the autopsies of people that overdosed that people should be aware of is there's more interaction between meth and fentanyl than that has been,” Leavitt said.


Shawndrea Thomas is an anchor and investigative reporter for KGUN 9. Shawndrea is living her dream as a journalist who’s passionate about making a difference. Share your story ideas and important issues with Shawndrea by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.