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Mexico largely to blame for rise of illicit drugs on Tennessee streets says TBI

Drugs tested by TBI containing the potent and deadly drug fentanyl-PHOTOS: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

During a 'Media Day' event held at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) headquarters in Nashville, TBI Assistant Director T.J. Jordan stated Mexico is largely to blame for a rise of drugs on Tennessee streets.

Jordan has issued similar statements during previous arrest announcements but went into more detail about the latest statistics compiled by the agency. According to Jordan, methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin distribution are on the rise in Tennessee thanks to drug cartels "flooding" the market. Jordan says there has been a 205% increase in meth statewide.

Of the cases submitted for testing at the TBI's forensic chemistry lab, there have been 9,202 cases so far in 2018. That's 1,738 more cases tested than in all of 2017.

Even though the state has taken measures to limit over-the-counter sales of products that can be broken down to make meth and even though there have been decreases in the numbers of meth labs busted, Mexico's involvement has helped keep these drugs on the street.

Another factor contributing to the rise has been the focus on the opioid epidemic and decreases in prescriptions being handed out to patients. For individuals addicted to the prescription drugs but whom can no longer get prescriptions, Jordan says they are turning to illicit drugs to maintain their addiction.

In 2017, Xanax (alprozam) and Oxycontin (oxycodone) were the top two prescription drugs seized or tested by the TBI. Hydrocodone, morphine, and methadone rounded out the top five.

But as individuals turn to street sales of opioids, they are also gambling with their lives.

"The body count is stacking up every day," Jordan said.

He likens the daily body count to overdoses to a mass casualty event and called on users to "get some help before you become a statistic and a casualty."

These overdoses are compounded by dealers adding fentanyl to their pills. In some cases, distributors use pill presses which look and have the same markings as prescription opioids but contain other compounds that could be deadly. Jordan says the TBI's focus isn't on the user, it's on the dealer/distributors.

The number of fantanyl and analogs tested by the TBI continues to nearly double each year since 2015. In that year, the lab tested 106 cases. The case count nearly doubled in 2016 to 210, then 488 in 2017 and 761 so far in 2018.

As the deaths and overdoses continue to pile up, the TBI is not the only agency of the state taking aim and the heart of the problem. Tennessee is among several states increasingly using laws which allow prosecutors to charge dealers with second-degree murder or attempted murder if their drugs lead to an overdose death or near death.

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