The Perils of Meth Addiction (Part 1)

Methamphetamine use has reached epidemic proportions in the western U-S the drug is highly addictive and exacts a heavy toll on users’ lives. Now, many Midwestern states are being flooded with the drug. In the first of a two-part series, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Wendy Nelson reports that methamphetamine is headed our way:


Methamphetamine use has reached epidemic proportions in the western U.S.
The drug is highly addictive and exacts a heavy toll on users’ lives.
Now, many midwestern states are being flooded with the drug.
In the first of a two-part series, the great lakes radio consortium’s Wendy
Nelson reports that methamphetamine is headed our way:

Most mothers will tell you, raising a family is a balancing act.
When you add in a job outside the home, things become even tougher.
But it’s hard to understand just how tough, until you try
doing it yourself.

“I had to get up in the morning at 5:30, get everybody ready – and
bottles and diapers and all kinds of things and get the kids to a sitter and
get to work. And then I would work all day and come back and get them. And
by the time I would get them and come back home, it was time to put them to

Paula – which is not her real name – was raising four young children alone
after a divorce.

She first tried methamphetamine, also known as “meth,” at the suggestion of
her former husband. He said it would help her keep up with the kids and the
Paula calls methamphetamine a wonder drug. It gave her a burst of energy
that lasted for ten or twelve hours at a time.

Suddenly, she says it was easy to work twelve-hour shifts at the factory,
take care of the kids, and cook and clean.

but it didn’t take long before it all caught up with her…

“I remember times when the morning came and the paycheck was gone. And
there was no food in the cupboards to feed the children, and the bills hadn’t
been paid. Of course that was over a period of time
but once the party life started to catch up with me, you know I was
getting paid on Friday and on Saturday morning, broke. And you’re talking
six-, seven-, eight-hundred dollar paychecks.”

Drug experts say methamphetamine gives the user the message that everything is
ok – that they don’t need food, they don’t need water, they don’t need sleep.

Lieutenant detective Scott Nichols says he’s seen first-hand the human wreckage that

can create. Nichols is with a special drug enforcement unit of the Michigan state police.

“You can imagine, if you stop drinking water for seven days, what’s
gonna happen to your body. If you stop eating for forty-five days, how much
weight you’re gonna lose. It’s amazing when we get these people. They
have large, open sores on their body, on their face. They’re emaciated.
It’s quite a startling picture when you see these people.”

Methanphetamine’s been around for decades. But its popularity has been
booming in recent years. And it’s sweeping its way across the country from
the west coast.

Doctor Jeff Kesler says there are a few things contributing to the growth of
The drug:
Methamphetamine is highly addictive, and cheap and easy to make.

“Access to the drug is very easy. We have the methamphetamine
recipes on the Internet. And really to make methamphetamine, you could buy
all the local ingredients at, like, a Wal-Mart.”

Kesler is a psychologist in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He specializes in substance
abuse treatment for prison inmates.

He says the symptoms of methamphetamine abuse mirror those of a severe
psychiatric disorder.

“Methamphetamine users who are coming down off a high clinically can’t
be diagnosed differently than a paranoid schizophrenic. So the clinical
symptoms that you see, that we see, with methamphetamine user, versus a
paranoid schizophrenic, are virtually the same.”

Kesler says most methamphetamine users, like Paula, only get into treatment
After they get into trouble with the law.

“When they picked me up that night, I remember being surrounded by,
like, fifteen different police cars and guns drawn and asking me to get out.”

Paula got caught up in a life of non-stop partying. She lost her job, her
house, and her children all because of her meth habit.

She was also moving from one abusive relationship to the next.

Then one night after snorting meth, she retaliated against her abusive

“I became the abuser, instead of the abused. I became more like him.
And in my mind, I thought, you know, one of us is gonna die, and it’s just
Not gonna be me! And so I went after him.”

Paula stole a car, drove to her boyfriend’s house, tore down the door and
Attacked him.

“I had two felony counts and six misdemeanors all in one night. And
they put a five thousand dollar bond on my head. And I could remember
sitting there thinking, “Boy, I really did it this time – I have really
Messed up this time.’”

Paula ended up in a court-ordered drug program. Now, after nearly two years of

intensive treatment and monitoring, she’s about to graduate.

But Paula says she’s seeing more and more new people coming into the program…

because of methamphetamine. And that scares her, because she knows how seductive the drug can be.

“I hate what it did to me, and I hate what I did to me. But for a very
long time, that drug was my very best friend. And we all know how difficult
it is to give up a best friend. So saying goodbye was really, really

For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Wendy Nelson.