Book Review: Methland

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In Methland, New York journalist Nick Reeding serves up a realistic account of the destruction of Middle America at the hands of methamphetamine, as told through the eyes of one small Iowan town.

Meth is a highly addictive and extremely potent stimulant that affects the central nervous system. The drug is injected, snorted, smoked, or even ingested orally. Often associated with poor and working class Caucasians, meth, along with its euphoric high, results in increased activity and decreased appetite.

The drug is both manufactured locally in illegal makeshift home labs and smuggled from Mexico, the vast majority of which lands in the country’s heartland. It is a shockingly easy production process using readily available ingredients—namely over-the-counter cold medicine and industrial chemicals. Manufacturing, albeit incredibly dangerous, is highly lucrative, making it incredibly tempting in impoverished communities across the US and Mexico.

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, meth is second only to alcohol and marijuana as the most used illicit drug in Western and Midwestern states. Over recent years, though, the drug has spread across the country, now affecting every region.

However, data and statistics are often meaningless. Reeding illustrates the scourge of meth, its deadly consequences and destruction of a way of life, through the personal story of Olewein, Iowa and its disheartened cast of characters.

Olewein, with its a population of roughly 6,700, is a town in crisis where big business and agricultural conglomerates have taken over the economy and small town way of life. Many residents are impoverished, forced to work two jobs, shifts running one into the other. Meth lab explosions and bike riders cooking the drug in soda bottles have become the norm.

Of all the stories in Methland, that of Rolan Jarvis is most telling. Meth-addict Jarvis was very literally melted when his kitchen-come-meth lab exploded. Now more depressed and addicted than ever, he rarely leaves his smoke den.

Reeding’s picture is clear—Olewein’s succumbing to meth was inevitable. A town of marginalized persons, Olewein was perfect prey.

Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town. By Nick Reeding, 255 pp. Bloomsbury, $25
Available at Amazon, among other retailers.

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Sobriety Foundation

Book Review: Methland

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