If you thought the problem with synthetic drugs in our region was gone, you're wrong. Several arrests involving these drugs have been made in the last few days in Hawkins County.
News 5 learned it's a growing problem that officers want to stop before it gets worse.
A quiet fellowship hall at Ross Campground United Methodist Church had a scary visit from a stranger before last Sunday's service. One church member didn't want to give her name but says, "I asked him again what was wrong and he said he had just taken some bath salts."
News 5 picked up a report at the Hawkins County Sheriff's Office and learned after this man left the fellowship hall, he was eventually arrested and officers found an uncapped syringe in his sock. "We've always felt safe and everything, but after that you don't know," said the church member.
But this wasn't the first arrest involving synthetic drugs in Hawkins County this week. Thursday night during a search of Randy Wade Hilton's car, officers found five packages of Panda Repellent, a type of bath salts, with a street value totaling $700.
Hilton faces felony Possession of Controlled Substances with the Intent to Deliver and other drug related charges. Lieutenant Chad Gillenwater with the Sheriff's Office says they found a total of five grams, "Bath salts are typically sold in one-half gram increments for $60 or one gram increments for $120."
But News 5 learned there's a growing trend in Hawkins County of people importing synthetic drugs coming from North Carolina. "Basically what they're doing is going over there buying this for a certain price, and bringing it back," added Lieutenant Gillenwater.
It's illegal in Tennessee and Virginia to possess synthetic drugs and to combat this problem before it gets worse, the Hawkins County Sheriff's Office is working on specific drug patrols, more investigations, and trying to identify the sources and stop suppliers of synthetic drugs. "With everything that they do to come up and get around it, we'll come up with a counter," said Lieutenant Gillenwater.
Despite this increase the Emergency Room in Hawkins County says they are not seeing any problems regarding synthetic drugs.