Tennessee’s opioid problem is no secret.
All across our 95 counties, local, state and federal agencies are working to stop abuse and addiction.
But meth also remains a menace despite grabbing fewer headlines.
According to Tennessee’s Dangerous Drugs Task Force, meth use is down across the state.
The peak came in February 2013 — back when the state was among the worst for meth abuse. That’s when seven labs a day were being reported.
But in Hamblen County, investigators say meth is still the top drug problem they face.
In March, the Hamblen County Sheriff’s office arrested Ricky Dale Munsey on drug charges. Two weeks ago he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of meth. Even with that plea, Munsey faces life in prison. Because the charges against Munsey are at the federal level, the Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office couldn’t comment on his case.
Undercover agents with the Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office are still hard at work making buys and tracking information to build cases against meth dealers.
Today, they say meth coming from south of the border is making their job tougher.
“When I started as a patrolman I knew there was a drug problem in Hamblen County,” explained an undercover narcotics sergeant.
He said that problem is now unreal. He’s worked six years undercover and watched addicts transition from pills to meth.
In three years, the way meth is delivered has changed.
Chief Deputy Wayne Mize explains it used to be much easier to detect meth labs.
“They would actually smell the meth cooking in the middle of the night and we’d make a meth bust and put people in jail that night. It was that easy in the past,” Mize said.
Now, he says, meth is being shipped into Tennessee from south of the border.
“A lot of the crystal meth is coming up from Mexico through Texas, to Atlanta then it comes to Knoxville and Hamblen County area,” said the undercover sergeant.
“The meth coming out of Mexico is so cheap and so good that people would rather just buy,” explained Mize.
Hamblen County law enforcement says they’re also seeing its effect inside jails – an increase in police pursuits, more violent crimes and more gun crimes.
“You’ll get home invasions, aggravated assaults and a lot of those aren’t being reported … they’re robbing each other to try and make a quick buck,” explained the undercover sergeant.