NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — For the first time since the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation crime lab began keeping detailed statistics, the agency said methamphetamine eclipsed marijuana as the most-submitted drug in the state in 2019.
“Drug addiction continues to be a major issue in Tennessee, and I believe this sharp increase in methamphetamine has a connection to our state’s ongoing opioid epidemic,” TBI Director David Rausch said in a statement.
He added: “Drug abusers often flow from depressants to stimulants and back again. As more people struggle with opioid addiction many of them will – with time – seek out stimulants like methamphetamine.
Unfortunately, those who run drug operations, often based outside the United States, know there’s an increased demand here. Alongside our local, state, and federal partners, we’ll keep doing what we can to dismantle these operations, but we’d also urge anyone struggling with drug problems to get help before addiction costs you your life.”
TBI’s crime laboratories in Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville received a total of 9,795 submissions of marijuana in 2019, compared to 10,652 in 2018. Historically, the TBI said it analyzes approximately 10,000 submissions identified as marijuana every year.
The TBI revealed methamphetamine has continued to trend significantly upward in recent years, increasing from 3,748 submissions in 2015 to 12,072 in 2019. That has occurred at the same time the state has seen a sharp decline in the number of meth labs over the past decade, indicating an influx in imported methamphetamine.
“The drug trade continues to evolve,” Tommy Farmer, TBI Special Agent-in-Charge of the Tennessee Dangerous Drugs Task Force, told News 2.
Farmer added: “Though we’ve seen an increase, recently, in stimulants in our state’s illicit drug supply, I’m encouraged we’ve made progress in addressing other illicit drugs, like opioids. This data, however, proves we have more work to do. We will continue to do what it takes to address this problem from the law enforcement side and stand prepared to help law enforcement agencies across the state in this collective fight.”
“While our state’s addiction crisis continues to evolve, it’s important to remember that treatment for substance use disorder is effective, and people do recover,” Marie Williams, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services said.
Williams added: “We want to encourage everyone, whether you’re living with an addiction or you love someone who’s struggling, there is hope for a new life in recovery.”
Both state agencies encourage those struggling with substance abuse issues to take advantage of free and confidential resources available through the Tennessee REDLINE. More information can be found online or by calling or texting 1-800-889-9789.