Meth problem in Tennessee is increasing

Meth continues to be a problem in TN, according to a recent DEA report, despite the enactment of the Meth-Free Tennessee Act of 2005. The Meth-Free Act requires that any products containing pseudoephrine be kept behind the pharmacy counter, where pharmacy technicians record who is buying it and how much. In 2006, the year following the enactment of the Act, the number of meth labs in TN and elsewhere fell by nearly 60% to 401 labs statewide. In 2005, the number of meth labs in TN was listed as 861. But, by 2007, the number of meth labs in the state began to show that meth labs are on the rise again. In fact, according to DEA stats, the number of meth labs in the state rose by nearly 25% to 539 in 2007. I doubt that the numbers come as any surprise to law enforcement agencies.

Meth labs TNIt doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the saying “where there’s a will, there’s a way” is true; especially when you’re talking about someone who has an addiction problem. Putting pseudoephrine behind pharmacy counters is not going to stop anyone who’s in the business of making and selling meth. It is a business, like any other. When your supplier stops supplying, what do you do? You find another supplier, which is what meth cooks are doing. The question is, who is supplying them with the pseudoephrine?

Doctors and other health care workers may unknowingly or knowingly be supplying meth cooks with the drugs they need to make methamphetamine. Drug abusers and distributors “doctor shop” to get prescription meds from several doctors and in many cases the state’s medical insurance program pays for the scripts. And guess who pays for the government medical insurance costs? Yeah. You and me and every other law abiding citizen in the U.S., who pays in to the tax system. But, what if the doctor won’t give meth cooks the scripts and they don’t know any health care workers who can get the drugs for them? Not a problem, considering that Mexico is said to be the largest supplier of meth in the U.S. right now.

If you’ve ever driven through TN, you can’t help but notice how many trailer trucks are on the road. During one trip that I made there to visit my son, his wife, and my grandsons, I actually got boxed in by 3 trailer trucks as I headed up a two lane highway. I had one truck in front of me and one whose front grill I could see in my rear view mirror, and another riding on my left side. The only place I had to go was off the road to my right and in to a ditch. I can tell you that I was talking out loud to the truck on my left as he turned his right blinker on. I don’t know where he expected me to go! I don’t drive a four wheeler! My point in telling you all this is that trucks are transporting goods across TN, every minute of every day. How easy is it for a Mexican supplier to get goods in to the U.S. and in to TN? Pretty easy, I’d say.

Mexican suppliers are only too happy to sell meth cooks the meth they want for the right price, which according to what I’ve read has risen significantly higher since the Meth Free Act went in to effect. It makes perfect sense, when you think about supply and demand principals. When there is a demand for a product and that product is scarce, the product becomes more valuable. Valuable products, naturally, cost more. Whether it’s a new computer system like the Wii or a drug that’s in high demand, the principal is the same.

So, what is a drug addict who lives on minimal income supposed to do when they are addicted to a high priced drug? Buy the lower priced ingredients they need to make their own supply of meth and kill two birds with one stone. Make enough to support their habit and make a good living selling a high priced drug that is in high demand. It’s not hard to see that meth cooks have plenty of incentive to make the drug. It’s not hard to see that despite the Meth-Free Act, the manufacturing of meth by small, clandestine labs, is destined to increase well beyond the numbers seen in 2007. Especially, when you consider the state of our economy right now, where jobs are hard to get and the price of gas and food continue to rise.

Here are some excerpts from the latest DEA report on meth in TN:

  • Much of the methamphetamine consumed in the state is transported from Mexico and the Southwest Border states. Clandestine methamphetamine labs can be found everywhere in Tennessee, but are predominantly located in the Appalachian areas in Eastern Tennessee.
  • Southeast Tennessee has seen a significant increase in the activities of structured Mexican methamphetamine trafficking groups. These groups control much of the methamphetamine distribution in the Chattanooga area, but command and control for these Mexican organizations are frequently found in Dalton, Georgia.
  • An increase in methamphetamine use and abuse is anticipated in Tennessee as the drug gains popularity over crack cocaine use.
  • The labs that are discovered in Tennessee are generally characterized as small and unsophisticated. These clandestine methamphetamine labs continue to pose a significant threat because lab operators are frequently armed and substantially involved in the drug’s distribution and therefore tend to place booby traps around the sites.
  • Geographically, Tennessee is unique because it is bordered by eight other states. The interstate and state highway systems crisscross Tennessee’s four major cities and traverse each of its borders. These highways carry a very large volume of traffic and are a primary means of moving drugs to and through Tennessee. As a result, the drug situations in the neighboring states have an impact on the drug trafficking, availability, and abuse in Tennessee. Tennessee is predominantly a “user” and transshipment state, not a major source area for any drug except domestically grown marijuana.
  • DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams: This cooperative program with state and local law enforcement counterparts was conceived in 1995 in response to the overwhelming problem of drug-related violent crime in towns and cities across the nation. Since the inception of the MET Program, 473 deployments have been completed nationwide, resulting in 19,643 arrests. There have been two MET deployments in the State of Tennessee since the inception of the program, in Chattanooga and Clarksville.

DEA phone numbers in TN:

Johnson City—423-854-9100

For more information about the meth problem in TN or in your state, please visit the DEA website by clicking the underlined link.


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