A meth plague is sweeping Tennessee. They call it crank, ice, tweak, Okie coke, shards or tina. The Tennessean reports that meth has become a menace, 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 the state. Tennessee is the buckle of the Meth Belt, which stretches 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 in the the vacant stares of 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 people 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 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.