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Tennessee's dilemma with methamphetamine

When you think of Tennessee, what comes to mind? Here are a few things: country music, the Great Smoky Mountains, whiskey, Goo Goo Cluster, Davy Crockett - and methamphetamine. Which one shouldn't be there?

The ravages of the addictive synthetic drug known as methamphetamine or meth have taken a toll on Tennessee's communities, residents, taxpayers and law enforcement. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Tennessee has ranked in the top three every year between 2010 and 2014 among U.S. states that reported "meth incidents" such as lab seizures and drug dumpsites.

Meth costs taxpayers $1 billion annually

Each year, Tennessee taxpayers pay more than $1 billion a year on battling meth. Cleaning up a contaminated meth lab site isn't cheap, either. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation noted that it costs between $5,000 and $25,000 to do so.

Often created in clandestine labs at homes, trailers, rural sheds and even motor vehicles, meth can be made with inexpensive over-the-counter drugs easily purchased at retail or drug stores. The process to make meth is a dangerous one, but as long as there is demand for the drug, it will continue to be produced.

Explosions, fires and child endangerment

Home explosions and fires - a semi-regular occurrence at meth labs - doesn't seem to deter the makers of the drug. Neither does the fact that many of these domestic meth labs also happen to house young children whose parents are the drug makers. That's child endangerment.

Meth addicts face a number of health problems, too, as the drug's long-term effects may include extreme weight loss, severe tooth decay known as "meth mouth," anxiety, inability to sleep, intense itching, respiratory problems, brain damage and possible stroke.

Sources of help

Seeking help isn't easy for a meth addict. They first must admit to having a problem. Families often are perplexed as to how to help a loved one who is a drug addict. Here are two sources to contact for help:

The dangers of methamphetamine are obvious, but addiction can be overcome.

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