Rise in Meth and Cocaine Use in Tennessee

Cocaine and methamphetamine are two drugs that carry some of the highest risks for users. The use of both substances often leads to a substance use disorder, overdose, or even death. Unfortunately, abuse of both cocaine and meth has caused serious problems in Tennessee. For several years, this rise in cocaine and meth use in Tennessee has caused the state problems. Abuse of both of these drugs in the 1990s led to the lasting problems Tennessee faces today. If you would like to learn more about meth abuse or cocaine abuse in Tennessee, please call us at 901-403-7925.

Meth Abuse in Tennessee

In 1995, only 8 people received treatment for a meth use disorder. By 1999, 134 Tennesseans received treatment for meth. Even in 1999, Tennessee’s treatment rate for those addicted to meth fell below the national average. Three Tennesseans received treatment per 100,000 people. Nationally, though, 32 people received treatment per 100,000 Americans.

Further, in the 1990s, Tennessean high schoolers used meth at a higher rate than the national average. Tennessee law enforcement began seizing Tennessee meth labs in the early 2000s. Between 2008 and 2011, meth lab seizures in Tennessee increased by 178%. In 2008, law enforcement seized 828 meth labs. Comparatively, law enforcement seized 2,302 meth labs in 2011. Now, there are approximately 800 meth labs operating at any given time in Tennessee.

Cocaine Abuse in Tennessee

Not only is meth a significant problem in Tennessee; cocaine is also a serious problem. Interestingly, laws against cocaine use originated in Tennessee as early as 1914. However, the problems we are focused on relate better to recent history. Like meth, there was a rise in cocaine use in Tennessee in the late ’90s. At that time, cocaine was the most commonly abused drug in Tennessee. Treatment data indicate how commonly cocaine had been abused in the state. In 1995, 2,773 people received treatment for cocaine use. Further, 3,809 Tennesseans received treatment in 1999 for cocaine use. Additionally, the state’s average came close to the national average. In 1999, 73 Tennesseans per every 100,000 people received treatment. The national average was 76 per 100,000 people.

Understanding some of the recent history of cocaine and meth abuse in Tennessee puts the current drug problem into perspective. A national survey distributed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides insight into the meth and cocaine problems in Tennessee today. In 2018, 181,000 Tennesseans had used an illicit drug such as methamphetamine or cocaine within the past month.

Further, 106,000 Tennesseans had used cocaine within the past year. However, many people in the state understand the risk of using cocaine. In 2018, 4,262,000 Tennesseans said using cocaine once a month would be a great risk to a person’s health and wellbeing. Additionally, 43,000 Tennesseans had used methamphetamine within the past year. Unfortunately, 157,000 Tennesseans suffered from illicit drug use disorder in 2018. Again, illicit drugs include meth and cocaine. The survey also determined that 134,000 people who needed treatment for illicit drug use disorder did not receive it. As these statistics show, there is a serious rise in meth and cocaine use in Tennessee.

Effects of Meth and Cocaine

Now that we understand more about usage rates of cocaine and meth in Tennessee, we’re going to focus on the physical effects of meth and cocaine.

Effects of Cocaine

First, cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug. Made from the leaves of the South American plant coca, nicknames for the drug include blow, coke, crack, rock, and snow. Some physicians use cocaine for medical purposes like local anesthesia. However, the recreational use of cocaine is illegal in the US. Cocaine affects the brain by increasing levels of dopamine in brain circuits. Dopamine is a natural chemical messenger that affects mood, pleasure, sleep, focus, pain processing, and many other physical and mental functions.

When people use cocaine, they experience a fast, big increase in dopamine in the brain. When dopamine functions normally, dopamine goes back into the cell that released it. However, when cocaine is involved, it prevents dopamine from going back into the cell. This flood of dopamine occurs in the reward circuit of the brain. When dopamine floods the reward circuit, the circuit strongly reinforces the drug-taking behaviors. Eventually, the reward circuit adapts to the level of dopamine caused by cocaine. Then, people need to take stronger and more frequent doses of cocaine. Increasing dosage and frequency allows people to feel the same high as the first time they used cocaine.

Short-Term Effects of Cocaine

Since cocaine is a stimulant that increases dopamine levels, people who use cocaine often feel happy, alert, and excited. Other short-term effects include being irritable and paranoid. Paranoia is an severe distrust of others. Further, those who use cocaine may experience hypersensitivity to touch, sight, and sound. Although the effects from cocaine are powerful, they do not last long. For example, the high from snorting cocaine lasts 15 to 30 minutes. The high from smoking cocaine may only last between 5 and 10 minutes. While some say that cocaine helps them focus, others say that cocaine inhibits their focus.

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine

Cocaine can cause many health problems. For example, cocaine can lead to nausea, fast or irregular heartbeat, tremors, muscle twitches, restlessness, constricted blood vessels, dilated pupils, or raised blood pressure. Further, depending on how people use cocaine, they may experience other long-term problems as well. For instance, someone who snorts cocaine may experience nosebleeds, loss of smell, or trouble swallowing. However, those who smoke cocaine may experience different problems. They, for example, could experience respiratory distress, higher risk of pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, and asthma.

Additionally, those who rub cocaine on their gums or consume cocaine through their mouth may experience severe bowel decay from reduced blood flow. Finally, those who inject cocaine into their bloodstream increase their risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis C, and other blood-transmitted diseases. Additionally, these users may experience scarring or collapsed veins.

Effects of Methamphetamine on the Brain

While cocaine poses a serious threat to users’ health, methamphetamine, or meth, also causes serious physical and psychological damage to users. Meth is a highly addictive and dangerous stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Like cocaine, meth also increases the amount of dopamine in the brain. Some of the short-term effects of meth include faster breathing, rapid or irregular heartbeat, decreased appetite, increased blood pressure, increased body temperature, and increased wakefulness and physical activity.

Long-Term Effects of Meth

Those who use meth are more likely to contract diseases that are transmitted through bodily fluids. Some of these diseases include HIV, Hepatitis A, and Hepatitis B. Meth can also cause rotting in the teeth and gums. Further, meth often leads users to engage in risky and dangerous behavior. This type of danger can put users and those around them in danger. Other effects include paranoia, extreme weight loss, anxiety, sleeping problems, changes to the brain structure and function, memory loss, and violent behavior. Meth can permanently alter users’ brains. Prolonged use often leads to changes in the brain’s dopamine system that relates to emotion and memory. Sometimes, the changes made by meth can be reversed after withdrawing from the substance. But other times, meth makes permanent and irreparable damage.

Additionally, meth overdoses are incredibly dangerous. Meth overdoses often lead to stroke, heart attack, or organ problems. Therefore, first responders often treat meth overdoses by doing these types of things. The doctor will work to restore blood flow back to the affected area of the brain if the user experienced a stroke. Or, the doctor will try to restore blood flow to the heart if there has been a heart attack. Further, the doctor will treat the organ problems if needed. Although addiction to meth is incredibly serious, treatment is possible. Most often, meth users receive cognitive behavior therapy as part of their treatment process.

HIV and Meth in Tennessee

The effects of cocaine and meth use are clear. These harmful substances affect people throughout the US. Although meth isn’t unique to Tennessee, meth use is more serious and spreading faster in rural Tennessee than other places. In a study published by the Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, researchers determined that meth and HIV are linked problems in Tennessee. As stated in the previous section, injection drugs put people at high risk of getting HIV. Further, the study found that the source of meth is different in Tennessee. People in most states consume meth that was manufactured by large companies either in the West Coast or Mexico. However, meth consumed in Tennessee is made almost exclusively in hidden, private meth labs.

To conduct the study, researchers asked several Tennesseans questions about meth use and related practices among their friends, family, and acquaintances. According to the study, 86.5% of participants knew someone who used meth. In one participant’s interview, the person stated, “Meth is easier to find than pot.” Another participant stated “I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s everywhere. I don’t have to look very hard to find it when I want it.” Further, 87.6% knew someone who participated in high-risk sexual activities. These types of activities, in conjunction with injection-use drugs, puts users at high risk of HIV. Additionally, 73.2% of participants said that meth was more readily available than addiction treatment.

Clearly, a rise in meth and cocaine use is causing serious problems nationally, and potentially even more serious in Tennessee. If you would like to learn more about addiction treatment for meth and cocaine users, please call us today. Contact us at 901-403-7925.