published Thursday, December 5th, 2013

DEA agent hopes to push drug awareness throughout Hamilton County

Americans lead the world in illegal drug use, even though most illegal drugs come from outside the country.

And the hot spot for illegal drug activity in the Southeast is Atlanta, said special agent Chuvalo Truesdell with the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration in Atlanta.

"Atlanta has been dubbed the new Miami Vice of the South," said Truesdell. "Atlanta is feeding Miami with drugs."

Truesdell met with about a dozen firefighters, law enforcement officers and neighborhood leaders Wednesday night to discuss the latest drug trends and myths. He will talk with youth in Soddy-Daisy schools today.

Truesdell is the first in a series of speakers the Hamilton County Coalition is bringing to Chattanooga to inform community leaders about area drugs and ways to prevent them from taking over their community. Coalition representatives say they plan to have local, state and national speakers every two months to give information about drugs, alcohol abuse and domestic violence.

The most abused illegal drug in the country is marijuana, he said.

"Did you think Rick James was singing to a woman when he sang Mary Jane or when Jimmie Hendrix sang about purple haze," said Truesdell.

He advised parents to listen and understand their children's music because it could be advocating drugs.

Unlike most cigarettes, marijuana has no filter to block carcinogens and all of it goes straight to a person's lungs, he said. And make-shift cigarette filters don't work.

Heroin is becoming a growing problem because prescription drugs are getting harder to obtain, he said. And bath salts, also popular, are drugs that cause hallucinations. Truesdell showed a picture of a man who cut himself from ear to ear after taking the drug.

The chemicals in Drano, cat litter, a lithium battery and gasoline are the same chemicals used to make methamphetamine, he said. People scratch their skin because the chemicals are toxic.

Get the license plate of cars coming to a house if you suspect it to be a drug house, he urged. Drug tip calls can be made anonymously but police need some information to verify.

Kenneth Simpson, program manager with the city's department of Youth and Family Development, said the program has opened his eyes to what happens in the drug trade.

"We want to get this information in schools," he said.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at or call 757-6431.

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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