NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said around 45% of drug submissions so far this year are methamphetamines.
As of late August, the agency said 7,910 meth submissions were tracked by its crime lab. Marijuana is in second place at 4,104.
“Where marijuana used to be the drug that led, meth has well taken over,” Director David Rausch said.
Meth shockingly took over as the TBI’s number one submitted drug of 2019 for the first time with around 32% of its seizures.
“Our overdoses continue to increase, which has been an interesting piece as well and what we’re finding is it’s polysubstance,” Rausch said.
Rausch said the drug is commonly mixed with heroin or fentanyl if it results in an overdose. The main reason addicts are choosing meth is because of price.
While COVID-19 increased the price per ounce slightly, Rausch said it’s still one of the cheapest drugs on the market. The latest data shows meth is bought for $600-900 an ounce.
“What we’re seeing is the transition of those who had previously used opioids are now transitioning over to methamphetamines,” Rausch said. “This is meth that is coming across our southern border that is being manufactured in South America and is being brought across our borders because it can be done so cheaply.”
Rausch added that overdoses and seizures spiked around when stimulus checks were recently given to Americans during the pandemic.
TBI said drug crises traditionally follow an ebb and flow pattern between stimulants and depressants. Rausch explained that as we’re seeing a decline in opioid addictions while meth is exploding in Middle Tennessee.
“What we’re noticing and what we’re seeing is the transition of those who had previously used opioids are now transitioning over to methamphetamines,” Rausch said.
And up next, Rausch said, will likely be what is used to treat those addicted to meth.
“Alprazolam and valium, that is going to be the drug that is next in the cycle.”
TBI agents are working closely with medical professionals to proactively prevent another cycle from forming. But Rausch said meth addictions are especially difficult to treat because of the brain-altering effects patients experience.
News 2 is investigating the effect of meth’s comeback. Tennessee Meth Wars digs deeper into the drug’s evolving impact on individuals, communities, and law enforcement. Read more here.