The state’s top law enforcement agency says Tennessee’s drug problem is constantly changing.
Moving from Meth to opioids and now to the sometimes deadly amphetamine fentanyl.
As addict's tastes change, so too does the demand for illicit drugs.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents spent Tuesday afternoon loading more than 1000 barrels weighing 50 pounds each into a rental truck. These barrels from across East Tennessee are collected as part of a nationwide drug take back program with the DEA.
“We keep thinking the number of pills that we collect in the national events is going to decrease, we’ve yet to see it and every year that we’ve done it the pill count has actually increased,” explained Tennessee Dangerous Drug Task Force Director Tommy Farmer.
For the TBI, more pills turned in means more awareness about the state’s opioid crisis.
“It’s a problem, but it’s a good problem to have,” said Farmer.
Opioid addiction and overdose deaths grab headlines, but Farmer said meth hasn’t gone away.
“Meth is still very much an issue and I would argue it’s an issue in the metropolitan areas as well,” said Farmer.
Just last month, 17 people from east Tennessee and north Georgia were indicted in federal court for conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of meth.
Just a few years ago, the Volunteer State had one of the highest rates of meth lab busts in the country.
“Street market price, the seizures, arrests, lab submissions and toxicology reports coming in all indicate meth use in our state has never been higher,” said Farmer.
That’s the same thing law enforcement officials in Hamblen County told us last month, as they battle meth being shipped in from Mexico.
"A lot of the crystal meth is coming up from Mexico through Texas, to Atlanta then it comes to Knoxville and Hamblen County area,” explained one Sergeant working undercover.
"The meth coming out of Mexico is so cheap and so good that people would rather just buy it,” said Hamblen County Sheriff's Office Deputy Chief Wayne Mize.
A gram of meth is about the size of a bag of sugar – that’s roughly $100 on the street, but fentanyl is on two specks of sugar crystals and can be deadly.
“It’s that small, two grains of salt and could be more lethal than that sugar pack full of heroin,” said Farmer.
Farmer says the good news is lessons learned fighting meth are now being applied to the battle against opioids and more measures are being taken to help the children of drug addicts, get people treatment and protect the environment.