(WHDH) — Drug agents are seeing a disturbing new trend in New England — Adderall laced with crystal meth.

Agents say young people are most at risk.

7NEWS’ Sam Smink traveled to New York City for an exclusive look at the fight against this dangerous drug.

LOSING LOVED ONES

Lisa Deane still feels the pain of losing her son, Joe, after he took heroin laced with fentanyl.

“It’s shattering, it’s torture, every single minute of every single day,” says Deane. “He was a wonderful son and brother. Joe lit up a room.”

Joe’s addiction started in high school, after accepting an opioid pill from a friend. For nine years, he was in and out of rehab.

Lisa says Joe was drug-free for months, working in the Financial District in New York City, before taking the fatal dose.

“It’s a constant state of panic. It’s the dreaded waiting for the phone call, which came,” says Deane. “Can you imagine how many families are going to get that call?”

One laced dose killed Joe.

Now Deane is warning other parents their kids could be in danger, even if they don’t, or have ever, struggled with addiction.

“More so now than ever, your child doesn’t need to be addicted in order to face a horrible national health crisis, which is counterfeit pills,” says Deane. “Scare tactics, no, this is the real world. This is what’s happening. We need to talk about it.”

“NOBODY THINKS THERE’S METH IN ADDERALL … “

The latest threat: Adderall laced with Crystal Meth.

“It’s got me awake at night because we’re seeing so much of it,” says Jon DeLena, DEA Associate Special Agent in Charge of the New England Field Division.

Drug enforcement agents reveal exclusively to 7 Investigates, just how New England streets are being flooded with a deadly version of the popular prescription drug.

“To me, in my 25 years with the DEA, it’s the most alarming thing I’ve ever seen,” says Agent DeLena. “It’s a move by the cartels to manufacture pills to look like Adderall made with nothing but crystal methamphetamine. This is a twisted move, a sick and twisted move on behalf of these criminal organizations.”

Agent DeLena believes the cartels are targeting young people, who are more likely to abuse Adderall.

“They (the cartels) know, sadly, that it is young people, middle school kids, high school kids, even college kids who are using Adderall and also abusing Adderall,” says Agent DeLena. “People assume that it’s a safe drug.”

Many falsely believe it makes them smarter or more athletic.

“Nobody thinks if they’re taking an Adderall from maybe their roommate in college or somebody in their homeroom from high school. Nobody thinks maybe this is made with crystal methamphetamine in a dirty laboratory somewhere outside the country,” says Agent DeLena.

Meth is highly addictive. It can lead to dangerous behavior and even death.

“Commonly, meth is associated with high levels of violence, paranoia, and affinity towards weapons,” says Agent DeLena.

The DEA knows they need to work fast, because local drug dealers have figured out how to make these drugs, and get them to your kids.

“The true surprise to me is how many locally have figured out how to manufacture them,” says Agent DeLena. He says these organizations sometimes go directly to schools to hand out samples. “It just passes from one hand to the next.”

WHAT THE DEA’S LAB IS FINDING:

The DEA and other law enforcement agencies in New England are seizing these Meth laced Adderall pills every day.

The confiscated drugs are sent off to this DEA lab in New York City for testing. 7 Investigates was given rare access to the lab.

Thomas Blackwell has been the DEA’s NYC laboratory director for 19 years and has been with the DEA for almost 30.

Director Blackwell showed us thousands of fake Adderall tablets, with Methamphetamine.

When we asked if he could tell which pills were legitimate, just by looking at them, he said “no.”

“You never know what you’re getting,” says Director Blackwell.

The fake and real pills appear identical in color and in shape, and organizations are copying the markings, down to a T.

Agents say organizations make the pills with presses, pumping out thousands at a time.

“Local criminal organizations have decided maybe they should try to manufacture these pills, and they are not even close to being as good at it as some of the cartels in Mexico are,” says Agent DeLena. “It’s so difficult to dose these drugs appropriately when you’re blasting through a pill press machine, that there is no quality control, no oversight of – so dangerous.”

That means, there’s no way to tell how much of the dangerous drug is in just one pill, until it’s tested.

“We’ve seen purities in the tablets or even in those bags as high as 15 to 17 percent, so that’s like double dosing right there,” says Lab Director Thomas Blackwell.

DEADLY DOSE: 1 IN 4 pills

“Recently, one in four pills that we submit to the lab contains a deadly dose. one in four pills, that’s the message we need to get out to our communities,” says Agent DeLena.

Lisa Deane wants to get that message out too. She currently runs a non-profit, demandZERO, which is working to combat the opioid, and counterfeit drug crisis.

“Our cities and towns and governments need to do a lot more to get the word out, to warn parents, teachers, nurses about this national health crisis that’s going on right now,” says Deane. “We can’t bring back our kids that are gone, never to come back. But we can certainly try to save those who still have time.”

The latest data shows 93,331 people died of overdoses in 2020. For perspective, Gilette Stadium can only hold almost 66,000.

“No number of Americans dying from this crisis will ever cause them [the criminal organizations] to stop. What they’ll continue to do is find new ways to addict more people. That’s what they are doing with these Adderall pills.”

(Copyright (c) 2021 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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