TBI reports new ‘troubling’ drug trend

Meth surpasses pot as most submitted drug

For the first time since the TBI crime laboratories began keeping detailed statistics, 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,” said TBI Director David Rausch.

“Drug abusers often flow from depressants to stimulants and back again,” he said. “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 Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville received a total of 9,795 submissions of marijuana in 2019, compared with 10,652 in 2018.

Historically, the TBI analyzes about 10,000 submissions identified as marijuana every year.

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, however, 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,” said Tommy Farmer, TBI special agent-in-charge of the Tennessee Dangerous Drugs Task Force.

“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 proves that 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,” he said.

“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,” said Marie Williams, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

“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,” she said.

Both state agencies encourage those struggling with substance abuse issues to take advantage of free confidential resources available through the Tennessee REDLINE.

More information can be found at tn.gov/behavioral-health/news/2019/7/10/tn-redline-adds-new-text-communication-capability.html or by calling or texting 1-800-889-9789.