The COVID-19 pandemic may have led to stay at home orders and other restrictions but that doesn't mean the drug business has come to a halt by any stretch of the imagination.

There hasn't necessarily been a spike in the amount of deals taking place on the dark web explains New Jersey Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Susan Gibson, but the impacts of the economic crisis has laid its prints on the drug market with buyers finding alternate ways to pay for their drugs.

"A lot of people don't have the money and we've seen a lot of people bartering now for drugs and giving over guns and jewelry and other high value items like that," Gibson says.

Drug traffickers have also been significantly impacted by the pandemic and the economic nightmare that followed so with less supply coming into the United States dealers are marking up prices and are getting dangerously creative with what their putting in the product they do have right now.

"We do think that there is less product in this country because of the Southwest border being shut down so the prices have gone up and the availability is perceived to be lower and fentanyl is being used a lot more than what it had been previously," Gibson said. "It's being used in every product out there, which is scary."

Gibson explains that with normal driving routes closed, drug traffickers are looking for alternate roads traffickers may be using to import product.

"We are look at every metric out there and are analyzing anything that comes across the border and how it gets there," Gibson said. "Once we identify a way that they're using, we adapt and overcome and definitely seize upon that opportunity to take that route away."

The DEA wants to strike fear in the minds of drug traffickers in New Jersey and have been putting these organizations on notice during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We want to cause fear for these drug traffickers so that they know that we're out there and we haven't stopped through Covid," Gibson said.

Gibson, says they've run more than 75 enforcement operations during the pandemic.

"We've seized over 17-kilos of heroin during Covid and we've seized over 6-million in U.S. currency during Covid," Gibson said. "We're not going anywhere, we never will, we're relentless and we want to cause fear among the drug trafficking organizations in New Jersey."

The stay at home orders and other restrictions in place during the pandemic have led to an increase in depression and anxiety across the board and it's particularly taking a toll on jersey residents battling an addiction.

"I think if you're in the throws of addiction, I don't think COVID is going to stop you from going to get what you need to get high and that's just dealing and living with addiction which is a horrible way of life," Gibson said.

People who have been hiding their addiction from loved ones are now using at home and aren't opening up to family members who could step in on their behalf.

"They're not letting them know when they need help and we have seen a little bit of a spike in overdose deaths because of that," Gibson said.

There have been 494 suspected overdose deaths in New Jersey since March 1, according to state numbers compiled by 'NJCARES,' with 26 of them occurring in Monmouth County and 31 in Ocean County.

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