Comments Off on Tennessee’s war on Methamphetamine is being lost – badly; Drug use is getting worse, even with registry and law enforcement crackdown

There is no entertainment value in it, but the state of Tennessee’s ability to get meth under control is breaking bad.

In television’s acclaimed drama series of that name, it’s the ex-schoolteacher antihero who has gone to the dark side because of his health and personal crises; here in the real world, it’s the system for catching meth makers that has gone awry.

If you’re not worried yet, you should be.

The state is supposedly dependent on its offender registry to stop addicts and drug dealers at the point of purchase for over-the-counter cold medicines, which are the most common building block for making methamphetamine. But the database has more gaps than a meth addict’s jawbone.

<b>Smoking ruins are all that remain after a meth lab blew up inside this house. </b>

Smoking ruins are all that remain after a meth lab blew up inside this house



This frustrating news comes after the Tennessee Meth Offender Registry was ushered in just two years ago as part of what was heralded as a major initiative to stem the meth problem.

Instead, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation now concedes our state soon will be No. 1 in the nation for meth-lab seizures — good, in that the labs are being found and destroyed, but also a benchmark of meth dealers’ success, especially because law enforcement supposedly had made meth a priority years ago.

Things haven’t gone as advertised.

Unless local court officers around Tennessee are committed to the job, the registry cannot be comprehensive. You can’t enter the name of a convicted meth offender unless you have documentation of past offenses. And only 65 of 95 counties have reported meth convictions to the TBI in 2013 so far — even though anecdotally, the bureau and other law enforcement authorities know that meth touches every county in Tennessee.

Knox, for example, had 430,000 residents in the 2008 Census and has long had a problem with meth cases; yet, there are only two people on the registry from Knox County. As a result, the dozens or hundreds who are not registered can continue to walk into pharmacies and buy cold medicine, which contains pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in meth. It makes the supply chain for addicts a nonstop stream of one of the most toxic, addictive substances ever known.

Even as grim as the aforementioned TV show can get, it doesn’t give the average person the real picture of meth addiction. That couldn’t be shown on TV — viewers would cringe and turn the channel — but it continues to unfold in Tennessee communities large and small.

Court officers complain the arrest information they’re given seldom narrows it down for them to determine meth was involved.  And some people on the registry still manage to buy pseudo­ephedrine by scamming the pharmacist with fraudulent IDs or other methods.

Most infuriating is that there is no unanimity of resolve on fighting meth. Pharmacists complain the registry is flawed, court officers complain about law enforcement, and the pharmaceutical industry is more worried about the effect on sales if the state were to  make cold medicines prescription-only.

Where is the concern about stopping the spread of meth use? Even if you have no sympathy for the current addict, shouldn’t you put your best effort into stopping them from selling and making more of it and grooming new customers? Shouldn’t you show a shred of compassion for the children of meth dealers, who live in houses or motel rooms or travel in cars that are time bombs of volatile drug ingredients?

Tennessee desperately needs to get a handle on this. Meth is only going to start showing up in more towns and more families unless we do.



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