Substance abuse treatment programs see increase in Tennesseans using meth


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Earlier this year, a traffic stop turned into one of the biggest meth busts Cheatham County had seen in months. And in Wayne County, 13 people were arrested in January, suspected of bringing more than 100 pounds of meth into the county.

“Methamphetamine is by far and away our most abused drug, most available drug in Wayne County,” Sheriff Shane Fisher said.

These arrests are becoming increasingly more common in Tennessee. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reported methamphetamine eclipsed marijuana as the most-submitted drug to its crime labs in 2019 for the first time ever.

“It’s a very addictive substance; unfortunately it transcends all racial, ethnic, socio-economic barriers,” Fisher said.

Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Marie Williams, said there was a 10% increase in meth abuse from people who use the department’s treatment programs from July of 2019 to June of this year.

“There’s a sense and feeling of euphoria that a lot of times drugs will deliver to individuals,” Williams said. “Once you start using a drug to get that feeling and it crosses over, you’re not able to control what you’re doing, you get into addiction.”

Meth is a stimulant that releases a large amount of the feel-good neurotransmitter, dopamine. The more you take the drug, the more you need to feel that high and hence, addiction ensues. Meth abuse can lead to psychosis and damage to major organs. Williams said there’s another element making meth even more dangerous.

“Drug dealers are actually taking a substance, they are putting it with fentanyl, they are cutting it with fentanyl and they are selling these drugs at a reduced rate,” Williams said.

The federal government has allowed states that received funding to fight the opioid epidemic to also use that money to address the increase in meth and other stimulant use. Multiple deparments within the State of Tennessee are working together on this meth resurgence through the Dangerous Drugs Task Force.

“That’s why we’re so grateful in this state that our governor and our legislature have allocated funds, so that we can approach this not just for the treatment side, but in the outreach side,” Williams said.

Williams wants all Tennesseans to know treatment and recovery are possible.

“When a drug is no longer what your goal and focus is, and you’re not letting down others because you’re seeking that substance and you start re-engaging in life, there’s a sense of self worth that comes from that. That’s amazing,” Williams said.

It all starts with a phone call. The Tennessee Redline is open 24/7. You can call 1-800-889-9789 to get referals for substance abuse and mental health services.

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