KNOXVILLE — The drug problems in East Tennessee have not changed, but the trends are always shifting, according to the Knoxville Police Department.
"You kind of start thinking, is it ever going to get better?" said Sgt. Josh Shaffer of KPD's Organized Crime Unit.
"Either we can sit and worry about why, or we can try to do something about it," he said.
Shaffer deals specifically with suspected overdose deaths. He said his unit tries to get ahead of trends in the drug world to keep the upper hand.
The biggest one currently causing problems for his department is mixing drugs in deadly combinations.
“You have methamphetamine users that are using opiates in an attempt to come down and there’s opiate users that are using methamphetamines in an attempt to come up or curtail the symptoms of withdrawal," Shaffer said.
Another trend is a decrease in "homemade meth" met with an increase in a purer, stronger form imported from Mexico.
“It’s more readily available, it’s stronger, they are just making a lot of it," Shaffer said.
The trend toward strength and mixing does not go unnoticed concerning opiates either.
“We have seen a decrease in some of the traditional Oxycodone … but we are still seeing a continued presence in the Opana, the Oxymorphone. It’s not necessarily the opana has gone up, but as everything has gone down it’s stayed present, so it’s become the predominant one that we’re seeing," Shaffer said.
He said the trends seen in East Tennessee are not unique. Rather, they follow trends nationwide. The most difficult question to answer he says is, why?
“Why would people huff gasoline or paint fumes or eat Tide pods? There is no limit as to what the mind wants to experiment with," Shaffer said. "And you can just keep fighting the fight.”