BRONX, N.Y. (PIX11) — When DEA Agents from New Jersey joined forces with the Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan to bust a drug mill operation in the Bronx Thursday, they found $10 million worth of narcotics, including thousands of fentanyl pills.

But they also found 45 pounds of methamphetamine, part of a disturbing trend involving man-made drugs.

“The opioid epidemic is exacerbated by the proliferation of stimulants, like methamphetamine,” Brennan said after the raid, “which can thwart efforts to reverse overdoses and treat those suffering from substance use disorder.”

According to Frank Tarentino, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in New York, “In 2023, there’s been three times as much meth seized in New York City as compared to last year.”

Tarentino also said 30 % of the fatal overdoses in the U.S. last year involved methamphetamine.  Fentanyl mixed with other drugs accounted for 70 % of the fatalities.

Many New Yorkers were introduced to stories about meth use when the series “Breaking Bad” broke onto the scene, about a chemistry teacher in the Southwestern U.S. who starts cooking meth in a recreational vehicle to pay for cancer treatments and leaves money behind for his family.

Meth labs in rural parts of the U.S. also gained notoriety when kitchens blew up, as addicts and dealers tried cooking the drugs at home.  Photographs of meth abusers with badly damaged teeth and sunken cheekbones became commonplace.

But Tarentino said Mexican drug cartels quickly seized on the addictive value of methamphetamine and started flooding American cities with it.

“The cartels have identified that synthetic drugs are the way of the future,” Tarentino told PIX11 News on Friday.  “The cartels want to increase addiction.  They want their customers to come back for more of their product.”

Tarentino said the cartels have taken over the synthetic drug market, even holding back meth production during the pandemic so they could eventually drive up the cost, due to demand.

“It’s in every state,” Tarentino said.  “It’s in New York City; we’re seizing it in all five boroughs.”

The city’s DEA boss noted the Bronx remains a central hub for traffickers for a good reason.

“Because there are so many available ‘stash houses’ up and down the I-95 corridor,” Tarentino said, “the Bronx is really strategically located for these cartels, these organizations to store their drugs.”

The DEA is part of a task force with the NYPD and other agencies seeking to raid drug mills, especially after toddler Nicholas Dominici fatally overdosed at his Bronx day care center after exposure to fentanyl.  Three other small children were revived with Narcan.