On Making Meth and Money

A version of this post first appeared on Handshake 2.0.

Living in a place is about much more than the land or weather. A place is most characterized by the people who live there and the communities they form. Rural communities are far removed from the constant happenings of big cities and are small, so things that happen within them affect everyone within the community. In rural areas across the United States we have seen increasing issues with drugs and addiction, particularly methamphetamine.meth and money

We at Rural System consider the health of rural communities to be integral to land health, tied as people are to the unique ecology of rural areas. Rural System is therefore very much concerned about the rise in addictions among rural populations, recognizing them as a problem of public health. It is more important than ever for all of us to understand addiction as a national community.

Most Americans spend a great deal of time and money supporting the lifestyles they love. We live and laugh and play, but we don’t think about what our behaviors may be doing to our brains. The music we listen to, our thought patterns, and emotions are all feeding back on the way we perceive reality and the way we place value.

So when one person looks at another and says, “I don’t respect that” because of behavior or choice, we have to wonder: is it only the person observed who is locked into a behavior pattern? Or is the observer fixed into patterns as well?

Addiction has begun to be understood as a disease, requiring an enormous amount of behavioral therapy, medication, and personal determination to change. When you consider that most of us have difficulty quitting habits such as biting nails or picking scabs, it is difficult for anyone who is not an addict to truly know the struggle addicts face to come clean.

In the meantime, faced with extreme withdrawal symptoms, addicts must find ways to continue to function in our down economy. So I took a look at the business of addictions, to understand how meth addicts become manufacturers (“cooks”).

An ounce of meth costs about $200 to produce. It is then “stepped,” “cut,” or diluted and sold in 1/4 gram, 1/2 gram, 1 gram, and 3.5 gram increments for total profits of between $1,200 to $1,600 an ounce. We’re looking at a gross return on investment of, conservatively, 600%.

If you buy from a producer or a dealer, you are getting a very small portion of meth for your money. While they paid about $7 to make the gram of meth you’re buying, you’re looking at a $100-$300 purchase. If you are heavily addicted, you could easily go through a gram a day and possibly more.

If those costs aren’t daunting enough, small quantities are rarely weighed so you may find yourself paying even more money to feel okay. It is no surprise that many addicts turn to producing their own meth to support their increasingly need-based lifestyles.

The precursor chemicals for methamphetamine are heavily regulated in the U.S., so the large-scale producers are located in Mexico where regulations are less stringent. Most U.S. labs are very small-scale and more like high-risk home gardens than small businesses.

Otherwise, if cooks themselves didn’t consume the product so quickly, the meth business might qualify for the Chamber of Commerce’s Greatest Growth in the First Year Award.

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About Laurel Sindewald

Laurel is an alumna of Warren Wilson College with a BS in Conservation Biology and a BA in Philosophy. She is a writer for Rural System, Inc.

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