'Meth is king in California': Golden State is major hub for Mexican drug cartel activity, DEA says

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A recent report found methamphetamine was the most common drug implicated in drug overdose deaths in California in 2017, and a top DEA official said the Golden State's proximity to Mexico is a major factor in the drug's regional prevalence.

"Meth is king in California, and trends in California push east. Unfortunately, because of our proximity to the Mexico border, because of the cartel control of the region directly south of us here, we are gonna get flooded with whatever they can make money on. Right now, it's methamphetamine," said Bill Bodner, deputy special agent in charge of the DEA's Los Angeles division. "They control the supply chain, they manufacture the drug themselves, they can bring it across the border, they can sell it and make a huge profit here."

In the majority of states west of the Mississippi River, methamphetamine was the most common drug implicated in drug overdose deaths, according to a report released in October by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which utilized data from 2017, the latest available.

While the report didn't examine potential underpinnings of those drug overdoses patterns, Bodner pointed to geographical factors.

"We are a transshipment hub for Mexican cartel methamphetamine coming into the United States," Bodner said. "It comes across the border, it comes here to Los Angeles, it's broken up into smaller loads. Some of it is sold here in Los Angeles, and some of it transported to the Midwest and to the East Coast."

In October, the DEA's Riverside division seized more than 700 pounds of methamphetamine during a drug bust in South Los Angeles.

Bodner said the DEA is ramping up efforts to combat drug activity in California.

"We have an extensive network of informants, undercover operations, wiretaps and other kind of intelligence operations that we conduct to locate the drugs and to go out and try to get it off the street," he said.

For people who use methamphetamines, treatment and resources are slim. Opioid addiction can be treated with the medications buprenophine or methadone, and opioid overdoses can be reversed with the drug naloxone. There's no FDA-approved medication for methamphetamine treatment, nor any overdose reversal drug to revive people, Dezman explained. Developing such a treatment is a top research priority for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, he added.

Despite the regional implications of the CDC report, fentanyl is still driving the nation's opioid crisis. The potent opioid, the most frequently cited substance in drug overdose deaths, was involved in 39% of those cases in 2017.

In comparison, nationwide, heroin was involved in 23% of overdose deaths, cocaine was involved in 21% and methamphetamines were involved in 13%.

The nation's drug overdose death rate has more than tripled since 1999, with 70,000 cases in 2017, according to the CDC.

ABC News contributed to this report.
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