Drug epidemic trends changing in East Tennessee

Drug epidemic trends changing in East Tennessee

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"It really got to be a nuisance to pharmacies. We spent a lot of time on the phone answering questions from the public about whether we had Opana," explained Mollie Scarbrough, a pharmacist at Hoskin's Drug Store in Clinton. "It really got to be a nuisance to pharmacies. We spent a lot of time on the phone answering questions from the public about whether we had Opana," explained Mollie Scarbrough, a pharmacist at Hoskin's Drug Store in Clinton.
As pharmaceutical companies have cracked down on pills, creating them in uncrushable forms, drug users are now turning back to heroin. As pharmaceutical companies have cracked down on pills, creating them in uncrushable forms, drug users are now turning back to heroin.

By MONA NAIR
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Local FBI agents say the next epidemic has arrived in East Tennessee. Agents used to see a lot of crimes related to Oxycontin, but that's changing.

"Oxy has become a common household word. Now everyone in the country knows what Oxy is," explained Special Agent Michael MacLean with the Knoxville FBI.

He says the makers of the drug got smart. They changed the pill to keep abusers from being able to powder it.

"That doesn't make it conducive to being snorted or injected anymore," Agent MacLean said.

But then, a new painkiller called "Opana" emerged. It's a pill a lot like Oxycontin, but stronger.

"It's actually much stronger. It's part of the morphine family, but 6-8 times stronger than Oxy," says MacLean.

As drug abusers flocked to Opana, makers of the pill changed the drug the same way that Oxycontin pills were altered. They started replacing it with a version that could not be crushed. And users have become desperate to get the original kind.

"It really got to be a nuisance to pharmacies. We spent a lot of time on the phone answering questions from the public about whether we had Opana," explained Mollie Scarbrough, a pharmacist at Hoskin's Drug Store in Clinton.

As Opana gets phased out, the FBI says heroin is moving back into our market in a big way.

"As these pill users have a problem where they can't get the pharmaceutical drug of their choice, or they can't afford it, the next choice is heroin which unfortunately is half the price," MacLean explained.

He said while pills can be regulated somewhat though doctors and clinics between here and Florida, heroin trade is linked to Mexican drug cartels. And that is a whole new level of crime fighting they don't want to see.

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