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Meth state's biggest drug problem
Lisa Z.png
Lisa Z

Meth has eclipsed marijuana as the most problematic drug in Tennessee.

The findings were released Monday when the TBI announced for the first time in its history the most common drug submitted by law enforcement agencies for testing in 2019 was meth.

“It’s not just here. Meth is a statewide problem,” said District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis. “It’s like a revolving door. At one point meth slacked down and opioids went up, but now we’re seeing opioids down and meth back up. Until we address our underlying addiction issues, we’re not going to get out of this cycle.”

According to the TBI, its crime labs in Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville received a total of 9,795 submissions of marijuana in 2019, compared to 10,652 in 2018. Historically, the TBI analyzes approximately 10,000 submissions identified as marijuana every year.

Comparatively, meth has continued to trend significantly upward, increasing from 3,748 submissions in 2015 all the way up 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 meth.

“We don’t have meth labs here anymore,” said Zavogiannis. “The meth labs are pretty much unheard of now.”

Zavogiannis noted meth addiction is especially tough, but said it’s an addiction which can be overcome. The addiction epidemic was also addressed by TBI director David Raush.

“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,” said Rausch. “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.”