Tennessee now leads the nation in meth use, TBI says - WSMV News 4

Tennessee now leads the nation in meth use, TBI says

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Officials at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation say the Volunteer State now leads the nation in meth use, and if you think the state's meth problem doesn't affect you, think again.

TBI officials said the drug is costing Tennessee taxpayers more than $1 billion a year, and Tennessee counties may soon end up carrying the brunt of the state's meth tab.

"We're No. 1 in something we don't want to be No. 1 in," said Montgomery County Sheriff John Fuson.

Tennessee has ranked among the top three states for meth use since 2007 but has now passed Missouri for the dubious top spot.

This month, the number of meth labs found in Tennessee has jumped from about 600 to more than 715.

TBI officials said they are averaging about one meth bust each day at the cost of $5,000 to $25,000 per incident.

In the past year, meth has cost the state a whopping $1.6 billion between investigations, chemical clean-ups, incarcerating suspects, caring for children of meth addicts in state custody and healing patients burned in meth labs.

"It's a huge cost to people who have nothing to do with meth," said Jesse Reynolds, director of the 19th District Drug Task Force.

Right now the Meth Task Force supplements Tennessee counties with equipment and training to fight meth use, but TBI officials said without additional federal funding this year, the Meth Task Force will be dissolved, placing those costs on local sheriff's offices in 2014.

"You can't just put this stuff in a trash bag and take it to the landfill. It has to be disposed of properly," Fuson said.

Tennessee sheriffs supported a bill in the Tennessee legislature this year that would have made pseudoephedrine, a common meth component, more difficult for abusers to obtain.

That bill failed, but many local sheriffs say they will support the bill again when it goes back in front of the legislature next session.

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