On the Meth Epidemic in Rural America

Rural Appalachia is in long-standing poverty, and wherever coal mines have been and been depleted, the land health is very poor. We have populations of people without work, without money, and in poor health. In another post we’ve seen the prevalence of opioid addiction in rural America, and in Local Costs of Meth in Montgomery County, VA we caught a glimpse of meth addiction as well.

CRIME-SCENEThe full scope of meth addiction is intimidating, however, and causes much more damage than just high costs for taxpayers. Meth addiction in rural America is a fast growing epidemic, a problem of public health more so than justice. And meth addiction poses a danger for the entire rural community.

Cost of MA abuse in the US in 2005 was estimated to be $23.4 billion, associated with crime, premature mortality, lost productivity, and medical conditions, such as infectious disease and cardiovascular insults. Source

Methamphetamine is highly addictive, described as a “one hit, one hook” drug. There are no positives to meth addiction: it takes its toll on the health of the addict, the safety of the community, and the safety of family members. Meth addicts are often very violent and even psychotic. Their brains are physically altered by the drug, affecting the person’s ability to make decisions and to think rationally.

Meth labs are notorious for being highly volatile: creating poisonous emissions, and posing high risks for fire and explosion in the area.  Mobile meth labs are even more dangerous and are growing in popularity because they are more difficult for law enforcement to find. They could be in a car, a public bathroom, or someone’s pocket. People are using the “shake and bake” method of meth production on the road, mixing chemicals haphazardly in 2L soda bottles. If the process isn’t done exactly right, the whole vehicle might explode. This method has also been accompanied by an increase in meth-related crimes across the country, partly because of the smaller amounts of pseudoephedrine required to make it. Rather than making high-risk runs for cold medicine across states, addicts can purchase just a small handful of pills and remain under the wire.

It is increasingly obvious that before we can improve the health of land, we have to improve the health of the people on it. Unfortunately there is no single hard and fast cure for meth addiction. Used in combination, however, there are some treatment options that can help reduce crime in the community and relapse in addicted individuals. Read on to see what rural communities can do about their meth problem.

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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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