Sunday, October 9, 2011

Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small TownMethland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town by Nick Reding

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Overview from Goodreads:

Crystal methamphetamine is widely considered to be the most dangerous drug in the world, and nowhere is that more true than in the small towns of the American heartland. Methland tells the story of Oelwein, Iowa (pop. 6,159), which, like thousands of other small towns across the country, has been left in the dust by the consolidation of the agricultural industry, a depressed local economy, and an out-migration of people. As if this weren’t enough to deal with, an incredibly cheap, longlasting, and highly addictive drug has rolled into town.

Over a period of four years, journalist Nick Reding brings us into the heart of Oelwein through a cast of intimately drawn characters, including: Clay Hallburg, the town doctor, who fights meth even as he struggles with his own alcoholism; Nathan Lein, the town prosecutor, whose caseload is filled almost exclusively with meth-related crime; and Jeff Rohrick, a meth addict, still trying to kick the habit after twenty years.

My Thoughts:

I wanted to post a review because I thought it was an excellent book. Released in 2009, it is still a good explanation of the ongoing battle against meth. It helped me understand the politics behind the attempt to enact laws to restrict the purchase of pseudoephedrine. Because of the similarity in chemical structure to the amphetamines, pseudoephedrine is a major ingredient used in the making of meth. Early legislative attempts to control the purchase of pseudoephedrine would have required each transaction involving the drug to be reported to the government, and federal approval of all imports and exports. Concerned this would limit legitimate use of the drug, lobbyists from over the counter drug manufacturers worked to stop this legislation from moving forward. We still hear about this ongoing debate today, as local municipalities work to establish some sort of control over the sale of pseudoephedrine products.

A few years ago, there was an article in our local newspaper about a young high school girl who got hooked on crystal meth. A popular, intelligent and hardworking student, the article documented her life before meth, how she started using and the decline in all aspects of her life due to her addiction. At the time of the article, she was in jail because her parents felt this was the safest place for her.

What I remember most about her story came at the very end of the article. When asked why she had even started using the drug, her response was “I just wanted to try it”. How very sad and frightening.

Methland told the same type of stories regarding the lives of people on meth, those trying to fight the production and sale of the drug, along with individuals working to help recovering addicts. This really was a fascinating read.

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