Tennessee ranks first in meth

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It may be hard to believe, but Tennessee ranks as No. 1 in the nation when it comes to methamphetamine abuse.

Last year (2012), Tennessee had 1,585 meth-related incidents and was outranked only by Missouri's 1,825 cases. Indiana was third with 1,429 cases. This year, the Volunteer State has jumped to the top of the list.

Compare those statistics with California (79 cases), Texas (32) and Florida (284.)

In the most recent Cannon County case, a couple, Jamie and Michael Barrett of Bellehill Lane were arrested on maintaining a dwelling and manufacture of meth, said Investigator Anthony Young.

Eight officers from the Cannon County Sheriff’s Department executed a search warrent on the Barrett’s trailer. A one-pot meth lab and components to make meth were discovered by officers.

Participating in the arrests were Young, Sheriff Darrell Young, Investigator Brandon Gullet, Deputies Jordan McGee, Ed Brown, Paul Reid and Reed Bryson and Reserve Deputy Roger Young.

The Sheriff’s Department has handled 38 meth cases so far this year.

Recently, the Tennessee General Assembly failed to pass a measure that would have tightened the sale of pseudoephedrine, a prime ingredient in the manufacturing of meth in this state.

The measure, endorsed by the Tennessee Public Safety Coalition, would have made pseudoephedrine a prescription-only drug. The coalition is a combination of the Tennessee Sheriff's Association, the District Attorneys General Conference and the Tennessee Association of Police Chiefs.

The effort to make pseudoephedrine prescription-only was the latest push to curtail Tennessee's meth problem. Police want to limit pseudoephedrine because it is only one "atom" from meth. The "cooking" of meth involves changing that one atom by a "shake and bake" process.

Under current law anyone who wants to buy a product (usually cold tablets) that contains pseudoephedrine has to ask for it and show their driver's license. The idea behind that is to block people from buying mass amounts of the drug straight off the store's shelves.

Customers can purchase up to 3.6 grams of pseudoephedrine-containing drugs at a time and up to 9 grams per month which translates into 120 pills per purchase or 300 pills per month. A law passed by Tennessee in 2011 requires drug stores to report pseudoephedrine to a multi-state database. The National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx) provides a real-time tracking system of sales.

The Consumer Healthcare Product Association sponsored NPLEx as an alternative to requiring prescriptions for the over-the-counter drugs.

In Tennessee, meth users and producers have been able to circumvent that 2011 law by a process known as "smurfing" in which meth producers recruit people to purchase the legal amount of pseudoephedrine. They occasionally pay them for "smurfing" but more often make meth available for payment.

Mississippi and Oregon require prescriptions. Law enforcement officers in Tennessee had also pushed for a prescription requirement.



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