Anti-drug campaign rolled out statewide

Vicky Newman-News-Herald
Tennessee's district attorneys have launched "Deceptive Danger," a new statewide campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of prescription medication and synthetic drug abuse.

The program includes an educational DVD featuring real Tennesseans impacted by the drugs and a personal message from Gov. Bill Haslam.

In Loudon County, the threat comes far less from the latest synthetic drugs and far more from pills.
Brian Jenkins, an officer with Loudon Police Department, said there is little problem locally with synthetic drugs, sometimes nicknamed "bath salts."

"We see the synthetic drugs sporadically, but here there is nowhere near the problem with synthetic drugs that we have with prescription drugs," Jenkins said. "Pills are epidemic. If I had a pound of cocaine, I couldn't give it away, but I would say 95 percent of cases I work - theft, burglary or whatever - go back to prescription drugs. It is unbelievable."

Jeff Russell, an investigator with the Loudon County Sheriff's Office, agrees.

"I would guarantee that 95 percent of every theft and every case I work is because of a narcotics problem," he said. "They will steal from their families first. They've completely lost their morals. Years ago, people would never steal from their parents."

Russell said he rarely sees synthetic drugs. "We don't have many places selling it, so I have not seen it," he said.

Although a positive thing, the campaign by the DA's office may be difficult to get into some schools, Jenkins said.

"We're in a quandary right now without school resource officers," he said. "It would be great to have this program through our DARE officer, but the SROs are in limbo right now."

Funding issues caused Loudon to discontinue providing SROs through the police department. Kenny Ridings, longtime DARE officer and now a member of the Loudon County Board of Education, said he does not know what is going to happen with the DARE program.

Russell Johnson, District Attorney General for the Ninth Judicial District, echoed the statements of law enforcement officers.

"The abuse of prescription drugs is probably the most pervasive drug problem in East Tennessee," Johnson said. "It is a perplexing issue for law enforcement since prescription drugs can be legally obtained.

"The problems are not only the abuse that often leads to overdose, but the related crimes such as burglaries, theft and drugged driving," he said. "Synthetic drugs are new to our area, but the damage they can do is truly deceptive as outlined in the video 'Deceptive Danger'."

The DVD, posters and brochure are being distributed to public middle and high schools across the state by Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference and the Tennessee Department of Education.