Saraland PD are making an effort to crack down on drugs, according to Saraland Police.

On March 22, the Saraland Police Department Patrol Division arrested Preston J. Taylor 25, from Chickasaw and Robert E. Howard 26, from Chunchula on the charges of trafficking methamphetamine, manufacturing a controlled substance and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia.


The arrests are the result of a traffic stop during which police seized an active methamphetamine lab, methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, according to spokesperson Arlan Gaines.



The pseudoephedrine debate across the state will heat up this week as two bills that seek to stem the tide of the methamphetamine epidemic have passed the Senate Health and Welfare Committee and are up for scheduling for a vote by the legislature.

One bill, sponsored by Doug Overbey, our state senator, seeks to make pseudoephedrine — a decongestant used in many over-the-counter cold medications that is also used in the clandestine production of meth — prescription-only and classified as a schedule VII controlled substance.

The other piece of legislation, introduced by Gov. Bill Haslam in mid-January, would seek to tighten current protocol by limit the volume of pseudoephedrine-containing products a consumer could purchase in a given month. The amount that would ultimately be allowed is still up in the air, as bills in the House and Senate have differing limits, thanks to amendments.

With the parties all over the board about possible limits and whether or not the medication should be prescription-only — a Senate Judiciary Committee debated nine bills earlier this month — perhaps the biggest threat to some kind of new legislation is that nothing gets passed at all.

“The worst-case scenario is for us to bog down and not pass anything meaningful,” Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons said in a story by The Tennessean. “But I don’t think that’s going to happen. … We’re working hard on it.”

Both sides in the debate have strong arguments. There’s no doubt meth is bad and has caused monumental problems for the state of Tennessee.

Making a key ingredient prescription-only would likely slow or eliminate native meth labs, saving the state and local municipalities both in clean-up of the toxic sites. Alternately, making pseudoephedrine prescription-only would add a layer of inconvenience to legitimate users of OTC medications like Sudafed and Allegra-D by requiring a doctor’s prescription.

And, ultimately, the impact on meth usage may be negligible.

Dr. Jennifer Stephani, a medical toxicologist from Oregon Health and Science University, has been studying the effect of prescription-only laws since her state became the first in the U.S. to do so in 2006.

“As more states consider similar legislation, it is important to understand the potential effect of these laws on methamphetamine use,” Stephani said in an online report promoting the American College of Medical Toxicology’s Annual Scientific Meeting, where she’ll present her findings. “It seems that decreasing access to pseudoephedrine may limit local production of methamphetamine, but overall use may not be significantly decreased because out-of-state suppliers step in to meet the demand.”

If less children are exposed to the dangers of the meth-making process, that’s a good thing. Either of the bills, and specifically Overbey’s law, could help limit or end those scenarios.

But we can’t believe that any law will be a magic bullet to kill meth abuse in Tennessee.

Like laws to track purchases a few years ago, new laws will only provide a stopgap until dealers and addicts find another way to get their fix. An answer to the meth problem won’t come until the demand for the drug is eliminated — and cracking that nut is more difficult than authoring any legislation.




Two people were arrested on drug charges Saturday night after DeKalb County sheriff’s officers were called to a Corunna inn, according to a news release.

Officers responded to the Twilight Inn, 2056 U.S. 6, about 9 p.m. to investigate a tip about possible drug activity. They made contact with two suspects at the inn, according to the statement. During the investigation officers located two active methamphetamine labs, finished meth product and items used in the manufacture of meth.

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Michael D. Hughes and Sara K. Smith, both of Corunna, were charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, possession of meth, possession of precursors, possession of a controlled substance, and maintaining a common nuisance, according to the statement.

Hughes was also charged with possession of a synthetic drug and invasion of privacy. He also was in violation of a protective order with Smith as the petitioner, according to the statement.

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department was assisted by the Waterloo Marshal’s Office and the Indiana State Police Meth Suppression Team.



LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – With the help of the Angelina County Sheriff’s Office, the Pct. 4 Constable in Nacogdoches arrested a 28-year-old man Friday for outstanding warrants in connection to a March 4 traffic stop in which he was allegedly found in possession of meth and stolen property with child in the car.


Jerry Franklin Wall Jr., of Lufkin, was arrested and charged with two felonies – possession of a controlled substance and endangering a child – and a misdemeanor theft charge. No information on bail amounts was available.

According to Pct. 4 Constable David Stone, he and ACSO deputies went to serve the warrants on Wall at his girlfriend’s residence in the 200 block of Hummingbird Lane. Walls was taken into custody without further incident.

Law enforcement officials also allegedly recovered an unspecified amount of stolen property at Walls’ residence.

Stone said the endangerment charge stemmed from the fact that the 15-month-old child in Walls’ care was in the car with him when he was allegedly in possession of drugs.

Other charges could be pending from other counties, Stone said.

Stone said he was grateful for the assistance of the ACSO deputies.



BRADLEY COUNTY, TN (WRCB) – Skyler Bates is all smiles. But the 10-year-old has been through more pain than most adults can imagine.


“I’ve lost two brothers, my family has been torn apart,” he said.

Skyler lost his two younger brothers, River and Leland, nearly two years ago. His mother, Tasha Bates, is serving life behind bars. Last year, she was found guilty in connection with the deaths of her sons. A medical examiner ruled the two died of overheating, likely from being left in a hot car.

“If someone out there has suffered a pain similar to this, I know how you feel,” said Skyler.

A jury found his mother guilty of first degree murder, child neglect and making meth.

“In court, they kept saying something needs to be done about meth. Well, I decided I’m going to do something about meth,” he said.

Now Skyler’s making it his mission to try and spot as many addictions as he can. His campaign’s Facebook page, Skyler’s Anti-Meth Fight, has nearly 2,000 likes.

“We lost two children, he loses his mother to prison her whole life, it’s destructive,” said Linda Bates, Skyler’s grandmother.
Linda Bates is Tasha’s former mother-in-law. She’s cared for Skyler, who has cerebral palsy, since he was an infant. She’s helping spread his anti-meth message.
“Look at our situation,” she said. “But also look how our mess has been turned into a message, our tragedy into triumph, and our pain into purpose.”

And Skyler’s purpose is powerful.

“Even if I can save one child’s life, that’s all I need,” he said.

Skyler hopes he can someday travel across the region to speak out against the drug.  He is in a contest to win a handicap-accessible van, which his family does not currently have. To vote for Skyler, click here.
To join Skyler’s Anti-Meth Fight, click here.



The serious mental and physical health issues of injecting meth are generally well known, but there has however been very little research regarding injecting meth and suicidal behavior. In a 7 year study, researchers found out that those drug users who were injecting meth had an 80 per cent higher risk of attempted suicide compared to drug users that injected other substances.


Even though causal pathway between suicidal behavior and injecting meth needs more investigating, the researchers suggest that it most likely involves a mix of social, neurobiological and structural mechanisms, at least from the population observed.

When compared to other drug users that injected, it’s possible that meth users tend to be more isolated and have poorer socially supportive systems. The higher rate of attempted suicide seen in this research indicates that suicide prevention efforts need to be an important part of drug abuse treatment programs. Furthermore, people injecting meth but aren’t in a treatment program would probably benefit from better suicide risk assessment as well as other mental health assistance in healthcare settings.

Taking part in the 7 year study was by word of mouth, referrals and street outreach, and included an interviewer given list of questions on socio demographic characteristics, HIV risk behaviors, drug use and treatment utilization. The study evaluated 1,873 individuals whose average age was 31, and 36.2 per cent of them were female. In total, 8 per cent of study participants recorded a suicide attempt.

This was one of North America’s largest studies of drug users that inject, and the study is one of the first longitudinal studies to look at attempts of suicide by drug users that inject. The majority of the 5,000 users are concentrated within a small neighborhood, which makes it a logical environment to do this kind of study.

The researchers also found out that injecting meth infrequently was a predictor for attempted suicide, while injecting meth frequently was linked to the greatest risk of attempted suicide.


December 22, 2011 — The dire physical and mental health effects of injecting methamphetamine are well known, but there’s been little research about suicidal behavior and injecting meth. In a recent study, researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the University of British Columbia found that drug users who inject methamphetamine had an 80% greater risk of attempting suicide than drug users who inject other substances.

Although the causal pathway between injecting methamphetamine and suicidal behavior requires further investigation, study authors suggest that it likely involves a combination of neurobiological, social, and structural mechanisms, at least in the population studied.

The study results are published in the December issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“Compared to other injection drug users, it is possible that methamphetamine users are more isolated and have poorer social support systems,” said lead author Brandon Marshall, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the Mailman School of Public Health and research coordinator for the Urban Health Research Initiative in British Colombia. “The high rate of attempted suicide observed in this study suggests that suicide prevention efforts should be an integral part of substance abuse treatment programs,” said Dr. Marshall. “In addition, people who inject methamphetamine but are not in treatment would likely benefit from improved suicide risk assessment and other mental health support services within health care settings.”

The Vancouver Injection Drug Users Study is part of the ongoing British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS’ Urban Health Research Initiative, which focuses on the effects of substance use, infectious diseases, and the urban environment on the health of urban populations. Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is known as a center for illicit drug use, and fatalities from drug overdoses and drug-related violence are common. A large outbreak of HIV infection reported there in 1997 was among the fastest spreading HIV epidemics in the developed world.

Participation in the seven-year study, which ended in May 2008, was through word of mouth, street outreach, and referrals and included an interviewer-administered questionnaire on sociodemographic characteristics, drug use, treatment utilization, and HIV risk behaviors. The researchers evaluated 1,873 participants whose median age was 31, while 36.2% of participants were female, and 32.1% were of Aboriginal ancestry. In total, 8% percent of study participants reported a suicide attempt.

“This is one of North America’s largest cohorts of injection drug users, and the research is among the first longitudinal studies to examine attempts of suicide by injection drug users,” said Dr. Marshall. “Most of these 5,000 users are concentrated in a very small neighborhood, making it a logical environment for this type of study. Because our study is one of the main points of access to health care for this population, this is a very well utilized study with a high rate of follow-up.”

Dr. Marshall and colleagues also discovered that infrequent methamphetamine injection was a predictor of attempting suicide, while frequent methamphetamine injection was associated with the greatest risk of attempting suicide.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.





Police are investigating a meth lab that was found on the property owned by a church in Gallia County, OH.

According to Sheriff Joe Browning with the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office, deputies responded to a report of suspicious trash debris, that was found on property owned by the Apostolic Faith Church, located on Vale Road, in Bidwell, at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, March 22.


Sheriff Browning tells 13 News that deputies located two one pot type meth lab containers, in which a Gallia County Police Department meth technician was called to the scene to dismantle the lab.  Gallia EMS, along with a Springfield Township Fire crew were also staged at the scene as a precaution, according to Sheriff Browning.

Sheriff Browning also says the meth lab was along a wooded area behind the church building.

No arrests have been made, however, Sheriff Browning says that deputies responded to another call of a suspicious duffel bag that may be related to this incident at 8:30 p.m. in the area of Amby Lane and Route 160 of Porter.

Sheriff Browning says that the bag contained components that are commonly used to make meth.

These incidents are under investigation by the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office.



24-year-old woman was arrested Friday for allegedly running a methamphetamine lab in a Kensington Park apartment in New Bern.

Amber Corley, 24, was arrested after law enforcement discovered a meth lab in the apartment complex at about 3 p.m. Friday. Her first New Bern court appearance is scheduled for Monday.

Sgt. Paul Brown of the New Bern Police Department said a formal news release will be issued on Monday.

Only Corley was arrested in connection with the meth lab. She was charged with possession with intent to sell, manufacture and deliver meth; possession of meth; maintaining a dwelling for the purpose of a control substance; possession of drug paraphernalia; and possession of marijuana, Brown said.

Corley is in jail under a $275,000 secure bond.

Brown said the SBI was called in Friday to help clean the apartment and remove the equipment used to make meth. None of the adjoining apartments had to be evacuated, he said.

Several law enforcement agencies were involved in the arrest, Brown said.



Missouri no longer tops the list for the most methamphetamine incidents in the country.
The recent statistics come form the Drug Enforcement Agency.
For more than a decade, Missouri ranked number one in the country for the most methamphetamine incidents.
A local substance prevention group say this shows a positive change for the state.
“Its possible for us to make a change and move in a positive direction,” said Crystal Ludiker with The Alliance of Southwest Missouri.
The recent statistics from the DEA office show Missouri decreased the number of methamphetamine incidents in 2012 from 1,960 to 1,495 in 2013.
“The fact that we are gaining ground in that area is a benefit to the community overall,” said Ludiker.
KOAM and FOX 14’s Rudy Harper spoke with the commander of the Jasper County Drug Task force who believes the decrease of incidents are due to education throughout the community and stricter laws on over the counter Pseudoephedrine.
“It’s harder to get Pseudoephedrine which is the primary ingredient in meth. It’s controlled so you can’t go in and buy as many boxes of Sudafed as you can – so they’re making it tougher to get your hands on it here,” said the commander.
Ludiker says there’s still more work to be done.
“This just proves that positive change is possible when people work together to make it happen.”
The state of Indiana takes the number one spot, Tennessee follows in second.

SALTON CITY – Thirty-one pounds of meth seized

Border Patrol agents seized more than $200,000 worth of methamphetamine and arrested two suspected narcotics smugglers on Wednesday.

Around 1:30 p.m., Rosa Amelia Moreno-Maldonado, 43, approached driving a white Ford 500 sedan with Perfecto Javier Rios-Hernandez, 46, as a passenger and their two minor children, according to the court complaint.

The vehicle and passengers were referred to secondary for further inspection, and there a detector dog alerted to the vehicle’s undercarriage.

Agents then found 26 wrapped bundles of methamphetamine hidden in an non-factory compartment.

The packages contained a total of 31.73 pounds of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of $206,245.

Moreno-Maldonado was advised of her rights and said she didn’t know there were drugs in the vehicle and that the vehicle had been at the mechanic for a week, according to the complaint.

Rios-Hernandez was advised of his rights and said the family had been picked up by a man known as “El Pony” that morning and taken to a shopping center where they got the vehicle.

He said he knew that there were narcotics in the vehicle and that his wife didn’t know.

He also said that he was to be paid $2,000, according to the complaint. Agents then again questioned Moreno-Maldonado, “Who is El Pony?” and she replied that she didn’t know. She was then asked why El Pony was calling both her telephone and her husband’s telephone, and she responded that she didn’t know, according to the complaint.

The suspected smugglers, both legally admitted Mexican citizens, were taken into custody while the children, vehicle and narcotics were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration for further investigation.


BEFORE AND AFTER IMAGES: Faces Of Meth Addiction

The sheriff’s office has shut down nearly half a dozen meth labs since the fall of 2012, and the number of arrests continues to rise.

Snyder said he doesn’t want to scare the public but he wants to make sure everyone is aware of what’s happening.

“We don’t want to send the message that the Treasure Coast is overwhelmed with meth,” he said. “What we do want is to tell people it wasn’t there in the past but we are seeing it now. We know if we don’t get ahead of it, it will get ahead of us.”

“I think it’s a great idea,” resident Paul Antal said. “Yeah, we’ve noticed and I agree it’s a constant problem.”

Snyder has scheduled a town hall meeting for Thursday at 6 p.m at the Blake Library in Stuart.



Three people were jailed Saturday on methamphetamine charges after Lafayette police received a tip about suspicious activity at a house in the 3000 block of Commanche Drive.

One active meth lab and several inactive labs were found there, according to a press release from Lt. Tom  Davidson.

Desiree D. Davis, 27, lives in the house and was preliminarily charged with manufacturing of methamphetamine and unlawful possession of a syringe.

Buddy E. Sanders III, 30, of Lafayette, was preliminarily charged with possession of methamphetamine more than 3 grams.

Jeremy Richardson, 28, of West Lafayette, was preliminarily charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, possession of stolen property and unlawful possession of a syringe.

The Indiana State Police methamphetamine suppression team was called in to clean up and remove all meth production materials, according to the press release. Commanche is in Tecumseh addition between Brady and Beck lanes on Lafayette’s south side.

The Department of Child Service was also contacted to take custody of two children found in the residence during the investigation.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Lafayette Police Department at 807-1200 or the WeTip hotline at 1-800-782-7463.

GLADE SPRING, Va. — A Glade Spring man faces methamphetamine-making charges after a search warrant was executed at his home Friday, Sheriff Fred Newman said.

Leroy Vanmeter, 40, of the 36000 block of Rush Creek Road, was charged with one count of manufacturing meth and possession of two or more precursors to manufacturing meth, the report said.

Vanmeter consented to a search of his home and deputies discovered the illegal drug ingredients a short time later, he said.

He was taken to the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Abingdon, where he is being held without bond.



The Oklahoma state legislature’s efforts to fight methamphetamine addiction in the state are working, according to one state senator.

Republican Sen. Rick attributes a significant drop in meth labs found in the state to the tough restrictions that state lawmakers passed in 2012.


Sen. Brinkley helped write the bill that limited the amount of allergy and cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine people could buy. Pseudoephedrine is the main ingredient needed to make methamphetamine. The law also synced the state’s electronic tracking system across state lines, so meth offenders who try to buy medications with pseudoephedrine over the legal limit will be blocked.

Sen. Brinkley admits these restrictions have created a few obstacles for allergy sufferers trying to get the medication that they need, but he says it’s encouraging to see the sanctions have done what they were intended to do.

“In 2012 there were 830 meth labs in the state. The following year after this bill became effective, we had 410 meth labs,” Sen. Brinkley said. “We’ve been able to reduce the number of meth labs by over 50 percent.”

He says the number of meth labs found in the state will keep dropping in the years to come, but he doubts it will go down as dramatically as it did last year.

“To be able to cut the number of meth labs in half in one year was probably a great reward to say the least to those of us who had to fight for this bill to get it through,” he said.

Sen. Brinkley says the state will likely not pass any more restrictions to pseudoephedrine.



Porterville police arrested a man and woman, both in their 40s, on Friday after finding methamphetamine, marijuana and a stolen World War II gun during a probation compliance check.

Officers conducted the check at the home of Donald Absher, 42, in the 1000 block of East Cleo Avenue in Porterville, police said. Officers found about 2 ounces of methamphetamine, marijuana, digital scales and a WWII firearm reportedly stolen during a home burglary in Porterville.

Police said Absher was arrested on suspicion of controlled substance use, controlled substance sales, possessing stolen property and for violating his post-release terms. Leia Henley, 47, was arrested during the check for suspicion of controlled substance and violating probation.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — Eastern Idaho law enforcement officials say they seized $800,000 worth of drugs as well as weapons following a 2-month investigation.

Bonneville County Sheriff Paul Wilde says the seizure Thursday is one of the biggest so far this year.

Police took into custody 34-year-old Alejandro Martinez-Zavala, 40-year-old Miguel Guiterrez-Munoz, and 36-year-old Ramon Meraz-Gallegos.

They face charges of trafficking of methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine.

The investigation by the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office, Idaho Falls Police Department, Idaho State Police, Bureau of Homeland Security, FBI and Immigration Customs Enforcement found the three selling large quantities of drugs in the community.

In the raid on Thursday, police seized 17 pounds of meth, about 2.5 pounds of marijuana and 46 grams of cocaine.

Police also seized an AK-47 an $8,300 in cash.



 LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – A couple was caught with all the tools to make meth in their house, reports said.

According to reports detectives served an arrest warrant at the house of Richard Eaton, 30, and Jennifer Lee, 29, in the 12200 block of Brookgreen Drive on March 20.


Police reports said that detectives were given consent to look throughout the home and attached garage.

Reports said that methamphetamine precursors were found including batteries, camp fuel, tubes, Sudafed, soda bottles, LYE and used cook pot in the girlfriend’s bedroom. Various pipes, spoons, needles and three bags of crystal meth were also found according to reports.

Eaton and Lee are being charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, two counts of position of a controlled substance and illegal position of a legend drug.



NORTON SHORES, Mich. — A Norton Shores mother is charged with manufacturing and distributing meth after police say they discovered the largest lab ever in Muskegon County in her home, according to police press release Tuesday.


Glenda Marie Reelman, 28, was arrested July 23 after Child Protective Services received a tip that she had a meth lab in her home on Sheffield Street, where she lived with her two children.

Police recovered 18 inactive one pot meth labs from the scene and between 2 and 3 grams of meth and marijuana.  They also seized 15 hydrogen chloride gas generators they believe were used to make the drug.

Reelman’s children have been removed by Child Protective Services while she awaits her trial.  At this time a court date has not been set.





Meth could have played a role in the stabbing death of Johnny Cash’s great-niece, according to the Putnam County sheriff.

Sheriff David Andrews would not comment on the nature of the evidence that tied methamphetamine to Courtney Cash’s slaying.


“We live in a drug-driven society,” Andrews said while discussing meth’s link to the case. “That drives our crime.”

Courtney Cash, 23, was found dead Wednesday inside a wooden chest in her Baxter, Tenn., home. Deputies arrested Wayne Masciarella soon afterward and charged him with first-degree murder.

Masciarella is also suspected of stabbing Cash’s boyfriend, William Austin Johnson. Andrews said Masciarella had gotten into a fight with Johnson and Cash at their home before stabbing them and fleeing.

The three were believed to be friends, the sheriff said. Witnesses had seen them together hours before the stabbing.

After the attack, Johnson drove himself to a hospital in Sparta along with his and Cash’s 20-month-old daughter. The child was not injured.

Masciarella was booked without bond into the Putnam County Jail, where he awaits a preliminary hearing on April 21.

Andrews said the suspect had been arrested more than 20 times in Putnam County.

Courtney Cash was the granddaughter of Johnny Cash’s brother Tommy. In a statement on Thursday, Tommy Cash asked for prayers and privacy.

“Courtney and her boyfriend are beloved members of my family and like you we have a lot of questions and emotions that we are beginning to sort through today,” the statement read. “We are completely heartbroken. It is a time like this that we are grateful for our faith and trusting the loving guidance of God.”



Four Limestone County people are facing a variety of drug charges after narcotics officers raided a suspected methamphetamine lab Tuesday, according to Limestone Sheriff’s Chief Investigator Stanley McNatt. He said five children were also found to be living in the home where the meth lab was discovered.

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“We had received complaints that there were people manufacturing meth at a residence at 26569 Overmeyer Lane,” said McNatt. “When our narcotics investigators arrived they found the residence occupied by four adults as well as two children who looked to be pre-school age. “

Investigators found parts of a meth lab and also smelled the odor of meth. All of the individuals were detained and officers obtained a search warrant. The search disclosed three active meth labs, meth precursors, methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.

“Officers contacted the Department of Human Resources about the children and while they were investigating three more children arrived by school bus. They were also turned over to DHR.”

Arrested were Jonathan Richard Gibson, 30, and Tiffany Rachel Gibson, 37, both of 26569 Overmeyer Lane, Athens, and Matthew Thomas Walker, 25, of 20005 Yarbrough Road, Athens, and Marlena Ruth Walker, 24, of 29106 Lakeview Drive, Ardmore.

Each was charged with first-degree manufacturing a controlled substance; possession of a controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The Walkers both were released from jail on $56,000 bond each later Tuesday.

The Gibsons remain in Limestone County jail in lieu of $56,000 bond each.



NEW BERN – Several law enforcement agencies are investigating an alleged meth lab found in a Craven County apartment.

According to New Bern Police, a meth lab was discovered Friday at 3:00 p.m. in an apartment at the Kensington Park apartment complex in New Bern.


One woman was arrested and charged in connection with the lab. Amber Corley, 24, faces multiple charges including possession with intent to sell or deliver meth, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The State Bureau of Investigation was called in and authorities stayed on scene into the early morning hours Saturday.

Corley is in jail under a $275,000 bond.



A plague is sweeping Tennessee.

They call it crank, ice, tweak, Okie coke, shards or tina.

Its common name: meth.

This drug has become a menace here, one that has eluded easy remedy despite success in other states in regulating its key ingredient: the over-the-counter decongestant pseudoephedrine.

It touches — directly or indirectly — every person in this state.

Tennessee is the buckle of the Meth Belt, which stretches roughly from Oklahoma to South Carolina. For the better part of the past decade, Tennessee has been in the top three methamphetamine states in the nation, along with Missouri and Indiana.

It is a story told daily in the vacant stares of the longtime addicts, in the odd tics they pick up as the disease ravages their brains, in the scars and skin grafts that illustrate how dangerous it is to make the drug — and the burnt-out homes that remind just how dangerous it is to live near.

It is told in dollars and cents and statistics, whether it is the $1.6 billion  Tennesseans pay every year to fight and clean up the meth epidemic or the 722 children placed into state custody in 2010 and 2011 all because of meth. It is told in the shrugs of neighbors who have grown accustomed to living near the toxic waste dumps left behind by meth labs.

It is told in broken promises, broken families and broken lives.

This is Tennessee’s story.

Meth blinds us to others’ pain

,Tennessee’s small towns and cities had hope.

Sometimes there wasn’t enough work for everyone to make a good living. A dry spell might make it a tough year for the local farms. And sure, things could get boring. It’s all a part of living in a small town.

But at least, the towns were not ravaged by drug addiction and crimes committed to feed that addiction. The sickness of methamphetamine has gripped Tennessee by the throat and won’t let go.

A series beginning in today’s Tennessean took journalists into some of these communities, from Dyer County on the Mississippi River to Carter County in the mountains bordering on North Carolina. Meth production has evolved from the labs in shacks in the woods to “shake and bake” operations you can carry in a soda bottle, and that portability has spread this wretched and deadly drug through every county in the state.

Meth is so insidious in its level of addiction and damage to the user’s body that it puts pain pills and heroin to shame. Its chemistry is so volatile that if using the drug doesn’t maim or kill you, being around those who manufacture it will. There is a whole industry built around hazardous cleanup of meth-lab sites.

The addiction causes people to make their family and friends lie, steal and cheat to help them get a little more crank. Meth cooks hire homeless people off the streets and turn them into “smurfs” to supply them with the over-the-counter ingredients to keep production going.

And it keeps on going — aided by a pharmaceutical industry campaign to prevent lawmakers from approving a prescription requirement for certain cold medications.

Law enforcement officials, who are on the front line of meth crime and cleanup in counties such as Dyer and Carter, have made thousands of arrests, often having to turn meth-world cronies against each other in order to catch the biggest cooks. And still they will tell you that they will not be able to significantly reduce meth’s presence in their communities until the supply of ingredients is cut off.

Pharmaceutical lobbyists tout current systems designed to restrict the ability of meth makers to obtain ingredients, but they cause no more inconvenience to purchasers for illegal use than for legal use. Their dollars go into lawmakers’ campaign pockets to prevent restrictions that would actually be effective against this scourge.

We invite you to read this three-day series in detail to learn about what meth does to the brains of its users, along with the endless medical problems it causes when survival is even an option.

A prescription requirement might be an imposition for some law-abiding people. How much of an imposition is the $1.6 billion every year that Tennesseans pay for health costs of meth users, cleanup of lab sites, crimes committed by meth dealers and users, and for the hundreds of children who end up in state custody because they are abandoned or abused by their meth-addicted parents?

Don’t think for another moment that you can say you are a Tennessean and this is not your problem, too. We all have a meth problem.

In Dyer County, it’s hard to find someone not touched by meth

DYERSBURG, Tenn. – Charles A. Haynes had been out of work for four months after he got laid off from his job as a diesel mechanic. A relative — known by police to be a major methamphetamine cook — promised Haynes and a friend $50 each if they’d bring him a box of pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient used to make meth.

“I ain’t no meth head. I’m just looking to keep the electricity on,” Haynes says. “He knows I don’t have a job, and he knows he can throw some change in my pocket real quick.”

Now that money won’t be coming.

Haynes, 31, stands outside his aging, brown pickup truck, gas gauge on “E,” as Dyer County Sheriff’s Lt. Ken Simpson and investigator Stoney Hughes shake down him and a friend for information about the meth cook.

Simpson, 51, has the demeanor of a Marine drill sergeant turned church pastor, the straight man to Hughes, whose wry sense of humor provides comic relief. Hughes, 38, says the pair admitted that they bought the pseudoephedrine for Haynes’ relative. They had two options: cooperate or face criminal charges.

They chose the charges.

In this northwest Tennessee county of just more than 38,000 people, it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t been touched by meth in some way. But its stranglehold over this state goes a lot deeper than that. The highly addictive drug grabbed Tennessee by the throat a decade ago and has strengthened its grip, spreading to nearly every city, town and hamlet.

The drug has numbed the sensibilities of addicts, saddling them with unshakeable cravings that sometimes drive them to eat their own scabs or distill their own urine for that last drop of meth.

It has upended the lives of ordinary citizens who find themselves helpless to do anything about the escalating danger in their midst — in their neighborhoods, on their streets, sometimes even in their own homes.

Talk to farmers who have watched as thousands of dollars in copper and chemicals have been stolen to fuel meth binges. Or residents who have watched neighbors carted off, leaving toxic waste dumps behind in their abandoned homes. Or mothers and fathers who have been burglarized by their own children, needing to scrape up enough money to buy pseudoephedrine.

Even the cops have their stories.

“He was my best friend in school. We did everything together,” said Dyer County Sheriff’s Sgt. Danny Petrie, who has spent his whole life living here, in this small farming community. “I’ve arrested him twice now. He was a good guy back in school. I never thought he’d get hooked on meth. He’s been in jail for six months now. I don’t even know him anymore.”

Most of all, though, the stories are told on the faces of children like Madison and Wes, abandoned by James F. Mooring, 36, when he was at the mercy of the drug that police, prosecutors and doctors say is worse than anything  they have seen.

“You don’t think about who you’re hurting. You don’t think about your family. You don’t think about any of your values. You just think about getting high,” Mooring says. “I missed Christmas, I missed birthdays, I missed a lot of stuff that I should’ve been there for.

“I think about all the people I’ve harmed by doing that. That really hurts. That probably hurts … .”

Tears well up in his eyes. And the words won’t come.

A wasp’s nest

Dyer County overlooks the Mississippi River, just 35 miles south of the Kentucky border. The county seat, Dyersburg, was once a thriving cotton town. But its largest producer, Dyersburg Fabrics, closed its factory in 2001.

The entire region is scenic, particularly along the river and around Reelfoot Lake, just to the north, with gently rolling fields of soybeans, corn and cotton sprouting up in the spring and summer.

Today, one in five Dyer County residents lives in poverty. Its double-digit unemployment rate puts it near the top in the state.

In 2013, there was about one meth lab seized for every 1,000 people in Dyer County.

Jeff Box was elected sheriff in 2010, largely on a promise to tackle drugs. He figured that drugs fueled the large majority of crime here. And no drug fueled as much crime as meth.

“I think that it’s devastating a lot of families. Most of the Tennessee sheriffs will tell you that methamphetamines are causing the most crime,” Box said. “Anytime you’ve got a meth house in your neighborhood, you’ve got a wasp’s nest full of thieves.”

The crimes involved thefts of meth-making materials such as anhydrous ammonia, which was often used to make meth until recently, when easier, less caustic recipes were discovered. Addicts also broke into homes to steal jewelry and electronics and raided farms for copper, which they’d sell to scrap dealers.

In response, Box made radical changes to how he deployed his deputies. He decided early on, drug cases wouldn’t be limited to detectives. Instead, he empowered all 19 of his uniformed deputies to investigate meth cases.

He has detectives, of course — Simpson and Hughes being the heavy hitters — but road deputies are trained to go just as hard at the problem.

As a result, their meth busts and arrests have skyrocketed, according to stats from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Some property crimes have plummeted.

“Our burglaries went down. Direct correlation. We were having five, six, seven thefts a week until we started going after those people for meth. Now we’ll have maybe one — knock on wood,” Box said. “Some of them are avoiding our county because we have strict enforcement.”

But even the most paranoid cooks have no problem scooting just one county to the north.

Small bottle, big threat

Last fall, in neighboring Obion County, at Adam  and Main streets in Union City, firefighters ran hoses around a bungalow house that had stood at that corner since 1916. Upstairs, more firefighters smashed out windows and used fans to vent the house.

Downstairs, a 93-year-old woman was slowly escorted out of the home, which police said was contaminated with meth. She would eventually go to the hospital, but not by ambulance.

“The ambulance wouldn’t carry her,” Obion County Sheriff Jerry Vastbinder said without inflection. “She needed to be decontaminated.”

Not long thereafter, men in full hazmat suits marched out the back door with the culprit: a regular-sized water bottle full of an opaque, yellowish liquid.

That such a small object could contaminate  a 2,700-square-foot home is testament to how toxic the meth-making process is, even in small quantities. The chemical reactions going on inside that small bottle are volatile enough to send the entire house up in flames. The entire block was evacuated as firefighters turned the massive water hoses on the backyard to spray the grass.

“In case it blows up,” Vastbinder said wearily. “It’s still bubbling.”

The scene is commonplace in this region.

Down the street, neighbors congregated to gawk at the house. There was no panic — they’ve seen this before.

Meth is a part of life here, where folks discuss the discovery of a lab the way they might describe a neighbor’s dog getting loose.

“There’s probably been five in the next 10 blocks in the last six months to a year,” said Devonda Orsborne, 46, who has lived in the neighborhood for nearly four years. “The little yellow house by the tennis courts is still boarded up from meth. Then there’s one on Greenleaf, which is the northeast area. Then, wasn’t there one on High Street, which is one street over from us? It’s an epidemic.”

She didn’t know the woman in the bungalow well. When asked if she personally knows anyone touched by meth, she counts.

“Three, four … five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 — probably 10,” she says. “I’ve known at least 10 people or people whose families were affected.”

An all-consuming drug

Professionals who deal with drug addicts will tell you that there’s something different about meth when compared with other street drugs. It takes hold of a person, changes them, makes them lose sight of anything other than that next high.

Rob Hammond runs the 29th Judicial District Drug Court, which serves Dyer and Lake counties.  The court has about 20 people at any one time in a 12- to 18-month outpatient program designed to let drug addicts avoid jail and get clean. The overall success rate is about 50 percent, meaning that the addicts get clean and, more importantly, stay clean.

But it’s different when it comes to meth.

“I would say we’re lucky if it’s 25 percent,” Hammond said. “Their whole world revolves around their methamphetamine use. Their families are secondary … it becomes everything to them.”

Spend a few minutes with anyone who’s been hooked on meth and they’ll tell you a similar story.

There’s the high, which can keep you up for days on end during a binge. But there’s also the excitement of outthinking “the system” designed to limit sales of pseudoephedrine. There’s also the notoriety of outsmarting police, and the prestige among criminals of being someone who can make meth.

Meth addicts don’t mention the health problems, the filthy living conditions, the jail time, the loss of family and friends. The ruined lives.

“One thing I got addicted to was motel rooms and the women. I’m more addicted to just the crowd, you know, being the man,” says Kenneth Pollock, 29, as he sits at a small table in the Dyer County jail. “It’ll grab a hold of you, and it won’t let go.”

He smokes meth. He injects it. He even eats it, wrapped up in toilet paper.

“I eat it a lot,” Pollock says. “To be honest with you, thought’s crossed my mind every day. It runs through my head all the time.”

Meanwhile, his girls, 12 and 9, have grown up largely without a father.

Pollock was jailed in 2011, convicted of meth-related charges. He served his term and was released last November.

Shortly before his release, when asked whether he’d go back to using meth, he said:

“It’s probably a 60 percent to 70 percent chance.”

In January of this year, he was convicted again and sentenced to two years in jail.

‘An everyday thing’

Mooring, whose children, Madison and Wes, were at risk of the same fate, hopes he will be one of the few to truly break the hold of meth. He grew up in nearby Lake County, just a mile from Reelfoot Lake. He had a good life, good parents.

In high school, he started drinking, moved on to marijuana and then got hooked on prescription pills. He struggled with drugs through two divorces, the second of which put him at his lowest.

It was then, at age 31, that he tried meth.

“The meth would keep you high longer, keep you up longer. It peps you up. If you can go to work, you can stay focused on work. There was times I would go two to three weeks, sleep maybe three or four hours,” he said. “The more I did it, it was like I can do things and work and feel better. After six months it was just about an everyday thing.”

And yet, the effects of meth on the body of a typical user are decidedly ruinous. There’s the premature aging, the acne, the paranoia, the mood swings — even irreversible damage to parts of the brain that correspond with pleasure.

Obtaining enough psuedoephedrine was easy. Users were willing to take the risk of running afoul of legal purchase limits or laws that prevent “smurfing,” in which meth cooks enlist others to purchase pseudoephedrine. When he couldn’t find others, he stole.

He stole from his retirement, burning through his 401(k). He stole from strangers. He stole from his family.

“Your values just go out the window,” he said.

And then, in 2012, he got caught.

For many meth users, the drug is so powerful that the only way to  get clean is to go to jail. Mooring was no exception. In May of that year, he got a wake-up call that put him on a path toward staying clean. He received a letter from another powerful force in his life: his daughter, Madison, age 13 at the time.

“She didn’t know if she wanted me to get out of jail,” he said, choking up. “She didn’t want me back in her life.”

It was then that he decided to try and beat meth. He joined the drug court program and got out of jail Feb. 4, 2013. He rededicated his life to God.

He held his children for the first time in a long time.

“To hold them, it was one of the greatest feelings in the world,” he said.

Even with his new dedication, he knew it would be tough. The temptation was still there, particularly when he felt down. But he tried to focus on God and family.

Hammond, who has seen most meth users try and fail to kick the habit, said Mooring had a chance.

“We have high hopes for him,” he said.

As of February, he was still working through the program.

‘We show no mercy’

A day after the Union City meth lab bust, Simpson and Hughes, the sheriff’s office investigators, tailed a suspected meth cook to rural Obion County. They thought the man had taken to the miles of forest trails.

With backup, they tore into the driveway, jumped out of their cruisers and plunged into the humid, mosquito-filled darkness behind the house. They came across a gas generator in a small clearing, but no suspect.

Suddenly, they heard a yell.

“Get your hands where I can see them!” commanded Shawn Palmer, an investigator with the 27th Judicial District Task Force.

The suspect dropped a Smart Water bottle — a small, mobile “shake” meth lab — and was arrested without incident. But that left the meth lab behind.

They called in a meth disposal trailer. Hughes suited up, from head to toe, in hazmat gear to dispose of the bottle. It seemed like a lot of work for such a small item.

But the components to make meth are volatile. Coleman camping fuel is usually used along with strips of lithium, torn out of batteries and used as a catalyst to start the chemical reactions.

The lithium is particularly flammable and can go up if exposed to too much water. As Hughes poured water to help neutralize the bottle, the lithium ignited in  his hand, sending huge flames into the air.

Hughes was not injured, but he was reminded how dangerous the meth chemicals can be. It’s part of why investigators take the meth problem personally, particularly because children are often in danger.

“We show no mercy when there are kids in the house,” Hughes said. “We charge them with everything we can.”

Their meth cleanup ended around 8:30 p.m., but Hughes and Simpson were not finished. They raced over to the nearby town of Trimble, population 800, to follow up on a tip about another possible meth lab.

The tip didn’t pan out.

And so Simpson headed home, eager to greet his 8-year-old boy, Cole, adopted when he was an infant.

A little boy born addicted to meth because his mother was a user.

It’s hard to find anyone in this region who doesn’t know someone whose life has been affected by meth.

Sometimes, you find it right at home.

Reach Brian Haas at 615-726-8968 and on Twitter @brianhaas.

What is meth?

Methamphetamine is an illegal, highly addictive stimulant that is smoked, injected, snorted or eaten. It is made using household materials such as lithium strips from batteries, drain cleaner and over-the-counter cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine.

Where did it come from?

While meth has been around for more than 100 years, it was widely used in mainstream settings in the earlier part of the 20th century. It was used during World War II to help pilots and soldiers stay awake longer and later by doctors to treat congestion and heroin addictions. By the 1960s, the drug grew in use and abuse, prompting the U.S. government to make it illegal in 1970. The drug faded until the 1990s, when it popped up as a drug of choice in California.

Meth slang terms

Amp, batu, bikers’ coffee, black beauties, chalk, chicken feed, crank, crystal, dope, go-fast, go-go, crystal, glass, hirpon, ice, methlies quick, poor man’s cocaine, okie coke, shabu, shards, speep, stove top, tina, trash, tweak, uppers, ventana, vidrio, yaba and yellow baron.

Meth mouth holds mysteries

Dentists don’t know exactly what causes the distinctive pattern of tooth decay called “meth mouth.”

The ring of cavities around the gum line was something Dr. K. Mark Anderson, a professor with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, saw when he worked as a dentist at Tucker Unit, an Arkansas prison that houses inmates with addictions.

“It is very widespread,” Anderson said.

“It tends to involve almost all or most of the teeth.”

And that is with an early stage of meth mouth. Often, the inmates had only nubs for teeth.

The American Dental Association attributes meth mouth to a combination of factors based on behavior spurred by the drug and bodily reactions to it. But the direct cause and effect has not been determined in a scientific study for fairly simple reasons. First, few people addicted to methamphetamine seek regular dental care. Secondly, ethics gets in the way of monitoring people taking the drug.

It’s hard to know how differently the teeth are affected whether someone snorts, smokes or injects the drug. That’s just one of the mysteries of meth mouth.

Anderson said he thinks the pattern of decay is caused by some sort of chemical erosion, bad hygiene, dry mouth and diet.

“Patients that are using meth tend to have a second drug of choice, which is Mountain Dew,” he said. “Their diets are terrible and highly carcinogenic. They are sucking down very, very sugary drinks, probably food as well that accelerates the process. It is a combination of factors.”

Pinpointing a specific chemical as a culprit is difficult because there is more than one way to make the drug.

The pattern of decay around the gum line is different from the typical cavities that occur on the biting surfaces and grooves of the teeth. It is similar to what would be expected in an oral cancer patient whose saliva glands have been damaged by radiation, he said, noting that saliva has a cleansing and anti-decay purpose.

Meth mouth doesn’t take years to develop. People in their 20s end up with nubs for teeth.

Chronic dry mouth occurs soon after regular use of the drug, Anderson said, so the teeth don’t get cleansed biologically — or manually for that matter.

A scarlet letter

Users on a 24-hour or two-day binge rarely make time to brush their teeth, said Nancy Williams, a UTHSC  professor and dental hygienist who has studied the correlations between addiction and oral health. Meth mouth might as well be a scarlet letter, she said, because it holds people back even if they are able to go into recovery.

“Meth mouth is so well known now,” she said. “Employers know if somebody kind of looks like a meth head. They don’t want to employ that person.”

The department of dental hygiene and occupational therapy at UTHSC College of Allied Health once got a grant to restore the smiles of recovering addicts at a halfway house in Memphis. But in most cases, it was too late to save teeth.

“Usually, it just meant extracting some teeth and putting in dentures,” Williams said.

2 women will forever bear pain, scars of meth lab explosions

The explosion happened in 2011, but Jessica Biggs still bleeds.

She bleeds when the sores on her leg pop open. She bleeds on the operating table during the skin grafts. And she still cries.

She was 22 that September night when the father of her children went into the bathroom of their Madison apartment to cook meth and something went wrong. He died two weeks later in the burn unit at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where she also was hospitalized.

Selena Humphrey was just 15 when she went to the Vanderbilt burn unit. She was cooking methamphetamine Dec. 4, 2000, in Grundy County when the chemical brew exploded in her face. She’s done with the skin grafts, but her scars will never go away.

The explosions that forever changed the lives of these young women happened more than a decade apart — a timeline that demonstrates the longevity of Tennessee’s meth problem. Surgeons at the state’s burn units in Nashville and Memphis continue to rebuild the melted body parts of addicts. And even after having suffered horrible, disfiguring injuries, their patients still struggle with addiction.

Humphrey, who was spared a jail sentence because of her age, wound up serving time later, pleading guilty to possession of meth-related paraphernalia six years after the 2000 explosion. She said she’s still using drugs but wants to stop.

Biggs wound up with another addiction after she stopped using meth. She got hooked on prescription pills after her surgeries, she said, “abusing them to numb my pain.” She had to go to rehab to get off narcotics, but said meth is the drug that dragged her down.

“Meth is not just a speed drug,” Biggs said. “It’s a devil’s drug.”

A revolving door

Burn units can be revolving doors for some addicts.

Dr. Bill Hickerson, the plastic surgeon who runs the unit at The MED in Memphis, said he has treated patients multiple times for repeat burns from meth lab explosions.

Just one bad burn case can carry a high price tag,  especially when a patient develops an infection.

“It can go more than $1 million,” Hickerson said, noting that burn victims are prone to serious complications. “It can be $1 million or $2 million with a large burn that gets sick.”

He has worked at burn units in Memphis and Little Rock, Ark., before and since meth infested the South. The initial wave of burn victims were people who made the drugs in large quantities, mixing explosive chemicals while using propane heaters, before the smaller cold-cook “shake-and-bake” method became popular.

“Everything in that lab was obviously volatile,” Hickerson said. “With a mistake, they got a huge explosion and very serious burns. The total body surface area burned would be very high.”

The introduction of the shake-and-bake method accelerated the spread and use of the drug in Tennessee. In shake and bake, household chemicals are mixed in a soda bottle. No flame is needed.

“The shake-and-bake has made it more available for anybody,” Hickerson said.

In a shake-and-bake explosion, the burned body area is generally smaller, but that does not mean people are not at risk for dying.

“They still get very sick because their immune systems have been totally destroyed by the drug,” he said. “Their cardiovascular system is definitely not normal. With their pulmonary system, it is not unusual to see inflammatory condition of their lungs develop.”

Dr. Blair Summitt, medical director of the burn unit at Vanderbilt, said he does not see as many obvious cases of meth explosion burns as he once did.

“Either we’re not getting the full story — maybe we have some and we don’t know it because the burns are smaller — but a lot of times the story can be sketchy,” Summitt said.

Doctors and nurses know to look for telltale clues, such as a patient showing up at an emergency room two or three days after a burn has occurred or giving accounts of accidents that don’t quite add up.

Hospital staff are mandated by Tennessee law to report suspicious cases to police.

Jessica’s story

Police knew immediately it was a meth explosion at Cedar Crest apartments in Madison on Sept. 17, 2011. It blew out a wall of the apartment that Biggs shared with Jason Scott, who already had a criminal record for making meth.

She cannot erase the memory of his screams for water and the strange whiteness of his face devoid of the top layer of skin the night of the explosion that led to his death. Shards of flesh hung from her hands and feet. Her ears looked like charcoal briquettes.

The couple had once been beautiful. Standing 6-foot-3 with high cheekbones and blond hair, Scott had the confident, closed-mouth smile of a man who thought he had the world by the tail. After years of performing pirouettes, leaps and stretches, Biggs had the body of a dancer and smooth, olive skin.

When they met, she was 19. He was five years older and had just gotten out of prison after serving time for burglary convictions, but he wasn’t using drugs then.

His addiction problem began with pills and graduated to meth, Biggs said. She tried meth and liked it.

Scott was buying the drug directly from a meth cook who told him he needed help making meth.

“Jason, at first, said, ‘I don’t want to learn,’ ” she said. “But he got so bad on it that he eventually learned how to do it. That was his thing every day, all day. That was his life. He would get up, find a way to buy the stuff to cook it, cook it, do it and stay up all night. Of course, I tried it.”

In a two-week time frame, she said, her weight dropped from 140 pounds to 105 pounds.

“We were staying with his brother in Cheatham County,” Biggs said.

“He had just got done cooking. We went to sleep. We woke up the next morning and the drug task force was knocking on the door. His brother called the cops on us.

“I did get my son taken from me,” she said. “But the charges got dropped because Jason took my charges. We stopped after that.”

She got her son back, and the couple had another baby boy. The children weren’t home the night of the explosion. She said she was sleeping on the couch in a room next to the bathroom where the explosion occurred.

She insisted that it had been a year since he had cooked meth. She couldn’t say why he chose to start again.

“I don’t know why,” she said. “He wanted some pills, and he couldn’t find pills. He looked at me and said, ‘I’m going to go cook.’ ”

She was hospitalized in the Vanderbilt burn unit for three months, then had to undergo a month of physical rehabilitation at another hospital. Besides those stays, she was hospitalized again last July because of a serious infection stemming from the injuries. She received treatment for addiction to painkillers in October 2012.

Her last skin graft surgery occurred Feb. 12.

“I have people who look at me every day,” Biggs said. “I went to the zoo at Halloween. This one guy asked me if that was my Halloween costume. Every person just kind of stared at me like I had a disease or something. A lady at Wal-Mart didn’t want to do my nails because of my skin.”

She is on probation for criminal convictions associated with the explosion.

Her grandmother, Peggy Biggs, has custody of her sons. Jessica Biggs also lives with “Granny,” the woman who raised her. She said her goals in life are to be a good mother to her sons and to become a licensed drug counselor.

Selena’s story

Motherhood is a tough reality for Selena Humphrey.

Her mother introduced her to meth, she said. Her mother’s boyfriend taught her to cook it. And Humphrey has lost her own rights to be a mother.

“My life is destroyed,” she said. “It took my kids from me. It took my serenity, my pride, my self-esteem.”

She has become the poster child for meth explosion burns — a role she is tired of playing after an appearance on “Oprah,” a feature in Newsweek and having her picture pop up on multiple websites. Her recovery from the physical injuries nearly 14 years ago, as horrible as they were, has been more certain than her recovery from the disease of addiction.

“It took me two years before I could open a car door, almost three years before I could pick up a half gallon of milk,” she said. “I had to learn to eat, talk, walk and sleep. For almost three years, I kept a garbage bag on my pillow because my face was bloody. I’ve had at least 100 multiple skin grafts.”

She became a licensed nurse aide but lost her certification after she relapsed and a 2006 arrest. Now out of prison, she cleans rooms in a Winchester motel that gives her a free place to stay. She is as brutally honest about herself as the reflection she sees scrubbing bathroom mirrors. She counts toking on a joint and drinking beer as using drugs, but said meth remains her drug of choice.

“My heart races, my mouth waters,” she said, describing the craving.

She reads “Our Daily Bread,” a devotional, every night. Humphrey prays for another chance and said she needs a residential option for treatment after a 30-day rehabilitation — a place for a fresh start.

“Something I can focus my life on instead of just sitting around twiddling my thumbs saying, ‘Let’s get high,’ ” she said. “What more have I got to do with my life? Nothing.”

Reach Tom Wilemon at 615-726-5961.


the series

Coming Tuesday

Drug courts and laws requiring a prescription for cold medicine are seeing results.

What you missed

In parts of rural Tennessee, it’s hard not to find someone whose life hasn’t been touched by meth.


$1 million

When meth labs go up in flames, treating the injured can prove costly. The Tennessee Methamphetamine and Pharmaceutical Task Force found  one meth-burn patient at Vanderbilt University Medical Center who required four months of critical care treatment costing $1 million.


$2.8 million

In fiscal year 2011, 1,066 people in Tennessee received publicly funded treatment for meth abuse at a cost of $2.8 million in federal and state funds, according to the comptroller’s report.

Pain beyond the burns: Hear from Jessica Biggs and Selena Humphrey, who talk about their long road to recovery years after being burned in meth lab explosions.

Meth by the numbers: Use interactive maps to see the number of meth labs and meth-related charges in your Tennessee county.

Drug firms spend millions to lobby state

A majority of Tennesseans and law enforcement officials may favor requiring prescriptions for pseudoephedrine, but the idea is still a tough sell in the state legislature.

Part of the reason could be lobbying.

Drug companies have spent at least $5.9 million — and perhaps as much as $15.2 million — lobbying the Tennessee legislature the past five years, more than doubling the financial firepower of police groups and their allies.

More than 100 professional lobbyists have been hired since 2009 to press the cases of pharmaceutical makers and their suppliers. Their influence has helped stop legislation that would restrict sales of pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in methamphetamine manufacturing.

Drug companies also have contributed at least $637,600 to lawmakers’ campaigns, over and above the millions spent on lobbyists. These donations have placed the drug industry among the top givers to legislative campaigns.

The interests of drug companies are wide-ranging. But a spokeswoman for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which has lobbied the General Assembly and represents many pharmaceutical companies that also have done so, said pseudoephedrine regulation has been among their top issues over the past five years.

“We’re doing everything we can to ensure that consumers’ voices are heard,” said Elizabeth Funderburk, the organization’s senior director of communications and public affairs.

The lobbying comes as the Tennessee General Assembly, like many other legislatures, has debated tough limits on pseudoephedrine as a means of curbing meth production within the state. A subcommittee in the state House of Representatives is scheduled to hold a hearing today on several pseudoephedrine bills.

One proposal has been to require a prescription to purchase pseudoephedrine, as mandated under federal law until the 1970s. Two states, Oregon and Mississippi, have passed prescription requirements, with both reporting sharp drops in meth production afterward. Several communities in rural Missouri also have begun to require prescriptions.

But drug companies have countered that more restrictions would be an inconvenience to hay fever sufferers and others who rely on pseudoephedrine for extended periods. They have taken their case directly to lawmakers.

Hard figures on lobbying are difficult to come by in Tennessee. State law requires companies and organizations that hire lobbyists only to report their spending with ranges, not exact dollars.

But a Tennessean analysis of lobbying records has found that 35 pharmaceutical companies, two of their major suppliers and three trade associations have hired 107 individual lobbyists since 2009. These companies have spent between $5.9 million and $15.2 million.

And those figures may not include spending that does not relate directly to contacting state lawmakers, such as public relations and lobbying local officials.

By comparison, law enforcement groups, organizations representing local governments and others have spent between $2.8 million and $6 million. Records show this broad coalition has hired only 23 lobbyists, often to work on issues unrelated to methamphetamine production.

The mismatch in resources has been a factor in keeping more restrictions on pseudoephedrine at bay.

“I would say they certainly have had an impact,” said Martin Police Chief David Moore, president of the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police. “Certainly, we don’t have PR firms working for us.”

The proposals

Several bills have been filed this session that would tighten access to pseudoephedrine. One of the most broadly supported measures has been filed by state Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin. Senate Bill 1791 would require a prescription but would allow pharmacists — not just doctors — to write one out.

Haile, a pharmacist by trade, says the restriction would mean his colleagues could be held accountable for selling pseudoephedrine irresponsibly. When a similar restriction was placed on codeine in 1996, pharmacists were empowered to turn suspected abusers away and recommend alternatives to legitimate users, he said.

Gov. Bill Haslam has proposed an alternative plan that would keep pseudoephedrine available over the counter, but with tighter restrictions. The Republican governor says his plan strikes a balance between the needs of consumers and law enforcement.

Polls on the issue have been mixed. The Consumer Healthcare Products Association cites the results of a poll taken in February that showed 56 percent of Tennesseans oppose requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine.

But a more recent poll taken by Vanderbilt University suggests the opposite. The school’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions found that 65 percent of Tennesseans back a prescription requirement, especially if a link is drawn between a prescription requirement and fighting meth.

Both sides in the debate may stake a claim to speak for the majority of Tennesseans. But plenty of lobbyists also are whispering in the ears of lawmakers.

Reach Chas Sisk at 615-259-8283 and on Twitter @chassisk.

Lobbying spending

Local governments, law enforcement and other legal organizations have spent millions of dollars since 2009 lobbying the General Assembly, but pharmaceutical companies have spent two to three times as much. Reports filed with the state show that pharmaceutical companies spent at least $5.9 million and perhaps as much as $15.3 million directly on lobbying state lawmakers over the past five years:

Spending range

for pharmaceutical companies

Low: $5,934,568

Mid: 10,599,568

High: $15,264,568

Spending range

for Law enforcement/ local governments

Low: $2,765,030

Mid: $4,357,530

High: $5,950,030

Source: Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance

Tennessee cities go it alone in anti-meth crusade

Frustrated that state lawmakers were not doing enough to curtail methamphetamine production, 18 Tennessee cities took steps to limit the sale of pseudoephedrine in 2013.

The drug, found in cold and sinus medicine, is the key ingredient used to make meth.

Then a December curveball from the state attorney general threw those cities into a legal gray area.

Law enforcement from across the state has long lobbied the legislature to pass a law that would require a prescription for cold medicines containing the active ingredient for methamphetamine. After state lawmakers killed the effort last year, Winchester police Chief Dennis Young pushed his city to take it on alone.

City leaders there passed a prescription-only ordinance last summer, which was followed by a steep drop in meth lab busts.

“We witnessed a 70 percent drop in meth labs,” Young said. “It’s a safer community for us to live in.”

Emboldened by Winchester’s speedy success, Young traveled across the state urging other cities to follow suit with their own ordinances.

In December, Attorney General Robert Cooper stopped Young in his tracks.

In an opinion, Cooper said enacting a local ordinance “that prohibits the sale, delivery or distribution of over-the-counter products containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine without a valid prescription” would violate Tennessee law.

Varied response

Cities have splintered in their response to the opinion.

Police in Pulaski still enforce their ordinance, but in La Vergne, they’ve stopped.

“We do follow the guidelines of the state attorney general,” La Vergne city spokeswoman Kathy Tyson said. “We are not enforcing that.”

In Winchester, local leaders shrugged at Cooper’s opinion and police are still enforcing the ordinance.

“It’s just an opinion, and I’ve got multiple counter opinions,” Young said, later adding, “Our community wants to keep it in place, so it stayed in place.”

Young has stopped lobbying other cities to adapt their own prescription-only ordinances, but he hasn’t stopped fighting. Instead, his crusade has changed shape.

He now crisscrosses the state to urge cities and counties to “put an end to this nightmare” by lobbying for a statewide prescription-only law.

After the decision was made to stop enforcing the ordinance in La Vergne, the city’s board of aldermen passed a resolution urging state lawmakers to require prescriptions across Tennessee.

La Vergne police Chief Mike Walker, who supported the resolution, said this tougher stance will be more effective than Gov. Bill Haslam’s “middle-of-the-road” bill, which proposes tighter restrictions on the amount of pseudoephedrine people can buy.

“We ought to have more restrictions,” he said. “Let’s put some more teeth into it.”

Several cities and counties have followed La Vergne’s example, passing resolutions of their own and forwarding them to legislators.

‘Not the silver bullet’

Not everyone agrees that a statewide prescription law is the right way to fight the drug.

“It’s certainly not the silver bullet that it’s sometimes made out to be,” said Carlos I. Gutierrez, senior director and head of state government affairs for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. “We don’t think it’s the most effective, most reasonable approach in dealing with this issue.”

The CHPA has supported tracking and restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine, which is already law in Tennessee. The group also has pushed education and awareness programs aimed at  combating meth smurfing.

Gutierrez also said a statewide effort to fight meth addiction is an important piece of the puzzle.

“It can’t just be about the supply of cold and allergy medications. This really is about demand for (meth),” Gutierrez said. “Until that’s dealt with we really won’t see much difference … in meth use.”

A report released in January by the state comptroller noted the early successes of local prescription-only ordinances, but stopped short of a full endorsement because of their short life spans.

“Sufficient data is not yet available to assess the impact of local prescription-only ordinances in Tennessee,” the report says.

Oregon and Mississippi have prescription-only statutes at the state level. Meth lab incidents in 2012 in Oregon remained at low levels and in Mississippi continued to decline, according to the comptroller’s report. Still, the report noted, it’s hard to gauge the true impact of any single effort to cut back on meth production because different strategies overlap and vary from state to state.

Still, Young has remained resolute about the efficacy of a prescription-only ordinance in his city. Statewide action is the most effective option, he said.

“We know the solution and we know how to stop meth production in our state,” Young wrote in an email to supporters last month. “This is a non-partisan issue to deal with a public health emergency. It is time to stop the pain and suffering of our children.”

Meth can lead to unsafe sex, STDs and burnout

The Internet is the meet-up place for people who mix sex with methamphetamine either because they are trying to score the drug or chase a thrill that’s long gone.

The personal ads on Craigs-list Nashville use code words such as “parTy” to introduce people to meth through sex. The capital T in the middle of the word is a tipoff that someone is looking for a casual encounter while using “tina,” one of the many urban slang terms for meth. Another is “pnp,” which stands for “party and play.”

The come-ons begin with an offer of a line or a toke. The burnouts are inevitable.

While methamphetamine may seem like an aphrodisiac at first, causing people to lower their inhibitions, it eventually shuts down the pleasure sensors in the brain. By the time burnout occurs, a meth user may have contracted a sexually transmitted disease. The drug increases the likelihood of infections, according to multiple medical studies.

Women who used meth were 48 percent more likely to have tested positive for gonorrhea and chlamydia than those who did not, according to one study published last year in a journal called Sexually Transmitted Diseases. It analyzed data on patients who visited clinics in Los Angeles County over a two-year period.

The links between use of the drug and HIV as well as syphilis have been well documented in males, especially men who have sex with men.

While most of these studies focused on urban areas, people living in rural areas also are putting themselves at risk.

That’s the conclusion of “Risky Sex in Rural America,” a study published last year in the American Journal on Addictions. It followed 710 stimulant users in rural areas of Arkansas, Ohio and Kentucky over a three-year period. The researchers got users to answer questions by paying them $50 for completing two- to three-hour survey sessions and $10 for travel expenses.

The study determined that meth users were almost 40 percent more likely to engage in sex than if they had not used the drug.

“Rates of inconsistent condom use were alarmingly high in this study sample, and the majority of current or former stimulant users continued to use condoms inconsistently over the study period,” the article concluded.

Pleasure and anxiety

Brock Searcy, a licensed professional counselor in Nashville, said the drug spurs the release of dopamine, a pleasure chemical, and norepinephrine, an anxiety chemical, into the central nervous system.

“A little bit of anxiety can be a good thing,” he said. “It’s like the butterflies when you first meet somebody. You even need a certain amount of norepinephrine to have an orgasm.”

Cocaine and other stimulants cause similar responses, but meth lasts longer and greatly impairs judgment.

“I have definitely worked with people who have done some things on meth that they regretted,” Searcy said.

Over time, the drug inhibits the brain’s ability to produce pleasure chemicals.

“You get to the kind of situation where you are burning out pleasure neurons possibly,” he said.

“There have been situations with depression and increased anxiety. Depression will completely kill your libido.”

Slang for meth

batu, bikers’ coffee, black beauties, chalk, chicken feed, crank, dope, go-fast, go-go, crystal, glass, hirpon, ice, methlies quick, poor man’s cocaine, shabu, shards, stove top, tina, trash, tweak, uppers, ventana, vidrio, yaba and yellow baron

Law enforcement officials signal support for possible meth-bill compromise

Law enforcement officials, on Monday, signaled their support for Gov. Bill Haslam’s meth bill if the legislature agrees to dramatically tighten controls over the sale of over-the-counter medicines, increasing the chances that a compromise is in the offing.

Haslam’s bill would require Tennesseans to get a pharmacist’s or doctor’s permission before buying more than a 10-day supply of medicine containing pseudoephedrine in a month. An amendment backed by law enforcement would further tighten regulations, requiring Tennesseans to get a doctor’s permission to buy more than six boxes in a year.

Interactive map: See meth charges by Tennessee county

“This certainly is a step in the right direction,” said retired Sheriff Terry Ashe, executive director of the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association.

Tennessee law currently requires consumers to show identification before buying the drug, and purchases are tracked using the National Precursor Log Exchange, a computer system that links pharmacies. Individuals can buy no more than 3.6 grams in a single day or 9 grams a month.

Haslam’s bill, which is scheduled to come in front of a House subcommittee on Tuesday, would cut monthly limits to 4.8 grams., the amount of the chemical typically found in a single 20-tablet box.

Ashe and Chief David More, president of Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police, say the governor has presented an amendment to them that would cap yearly pseudoephedrine sales to 14.4 grams per customer, or six boxes of the medicine. Customers could use a prescription to get more.

Winchester Police Chief Dennis Young, a champion of a prescription-only law, said the amendment was a suitable compromise but not the solution in the war against meth.

“It’s a far cry better than where we’re at,” said Police Chief Dennis Young of Winchester, but “I don’t think it’s low enough.”

Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said on Monday afternoon that an amendment with a yearly cap is being considered, but a final number hadn’t been established.

NIAGARA FALLS, New York — A Canadian man faces drug charges after United States border agents say he tried to smuggle five pounds of methamphetamine across the border from New York.

Customs and Border Protection officials say 21-year-old Karone Johnson of Thorold, Ontario was taken into custody at the Rainbow Bridge Thursday while leaving Niagara Falls, New York

Customs officials say Johnson was the subject of a random inspection at the bridge when officers noticed the screws of a speaker box in his car appeared to have been tampered with. They say that when the officers removed the speaker they found five packages of drugs.

Johnson was detained and turned over to Homeland Security.

It was unknown if he had a lawyer.


LAKEPORT, Calif. – Two Corning residents were arrested on drug charges Wednesday following a verbal altercation in Lakeport.

Anthony Joseph Moron, 24, and Cynthia Leann Fox, 23, were taken into custody, according to Lt. Jason Ferguson.


Just after noon on Wednesday Lakeport Police officers contacted Moron and Fox in the 800 block of N. Main street. Ferguson said they were arguing over a cell phone.

During the contact with the officers, Fox advised them that she had marijuana and a pipe in her purse. A search of her purse revealed a glass pipe with suspected methamphetamine and a plastic bag containing processed marijuana, Ferguson said.

As a result, Ferguson said Fox was placed under arrest for possession of a controlled substance, possession of paraphernalia and possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.

During the contact with Moron, an officer obtained consent to search his person and located a plastic baggie with a white crystal substance which officers believed was methamphetamine, Ferguson said.

Ferguson said Moron was arrested for possession of a controlled substance.

Both Moron and Fox were transported to the Hill Road Jail, where they were booked. Bail for each was set at $15,000, Ferguson said.



POLK COUNTY, Fla. – A five month, multi-agency investigation led to the arrest of 13 drug trafficking suspects.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office, along with members of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Orlando District Office, Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution and Lake County Sheriff’s Office, identified 25 suspects allegedly involved in an organized drug trafficking enterprise, according to a release from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.


The multi-month investigation found an alleged organized methamphetamine crime ring who was responsible for the distribution of large amounts of meth in Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk and Seminole Counties. Investigators identified the alleged source of the meth supply as Javier Flores, aka El Don, according to the release. Flores lives in Southern California and is accused of managing large scale methamphetamine shipments to Lakeland, Florida, Atlanta, Georgia, and Las Vegas, Nevada through Southern California from Mexico. The organization included a network of couriers, managers, distributors and customers.

In February, detectives intercepted a $200,170 cash delivery meant to pay for methamphetamine from a courier. Investigators also learned Flores and another suspect consulted a Voodoo priest who would provide predictions, prophecies and readings regarding the organization’s decisions and welfare.

Tuesday investigators intercepted 44 pounds of meth at a Polk City Love’s Truck Stop in the 1800 block of Florida 559, the release detailed. The “uncut” street value of the meth is approximately $2 million.

Also Tuesday detectives arrested 13 suspects, seized tens of thousands of dollars, seven vehicles, approximately 100 weapons, bullet-proof vests and thousands of rounds of ammunition from six different homes in Lakeland and Davenport.

Suspects custody include:

  • Alfredo Ortiz-Hernandez, 25
  • Debra Tapia, 49
  • Dioscelina Galaraza-Ozorio, 33
  • Eugenia Lopez, 29
  • Joel Tapia, 30
  • Jose Luis Rios, 47
  • Joseph Angelo Rinaldi, 34
  • Joseph Workman, 52
  • Luis Villafuerte Rojas, 39
  • Ma-Concepcion Lopez, 38
  • Maria Lopez Ontiveros, aka Mariana Alvear, 33
  • Maria Widdows, 29
  • Tara Tapia, 29


Two children, ages 1 and 3, were removed from one of the homes and placed into Florida Department of Children and Families custody.