How is meth affecting the American small town? Nick Reding, author of Methland, takes a look at the meth addiction and meth manufacturing problem that is affecting small towns. For his book, he spent four years studying Olewein, Iowa, a rural community, populated by just over 6,000 residents who are struggling to combat low-paying jobs, rising unemployment rates, and the meth epidemic that is preying on rural communities. Included in the book is information from meth users, like Roland Jarvis, whose addiction to meth began when he used meth to help him stay alert during his double shifts at a local meat-processing plant. But, Jarvis wasn’t the only one using meth to get him through a long work day. Jarvis’ use of meth took him down the road to hell when his addiction to meth became habitual and he began to manufacture it. One night, meth-induced paranoia, changed Jarvis forever. While attempting to get rid of his meth cooking chemicals, a fire erupted and burned him so badly that he begged the police to kill him, while paramedics stood by helplessly watching his flesh melt off of his body. Jarvis is pictured in the book, lifting a pipe to his noseless face, with fingerless hands.
Also included in the book is a story about Lori Arnold, the sister of Tom Arnold, the actor who had been married to comedienne Roseanne Barr. Lori Arnold, Reding says, ran a meth business with the help of illegal immigrants, many from Mexico, most of whom were also employed in meth-packing plants. They smuggled meth making ingredients for her and help sell her goods to other immigrants employed at the factories they worked for. Lori ran the business for years.
The story of Jeffrey Rohrick is also listed in Methland. Rohrick was badly burned when a mixture of chemical fumes and a lit cigarette sent him running outside in a ball of flames.
As family farms disappeared and corporations moved in, the population near Oelwein, Iowa dropped nearly 25 percent, Reding reports in his book. Falling wage, the loss of good jobs and family farms, had whittled away job opportunities for those who stayed in Oelwein. Making and selling meth became for many, a way to make a living.
Nathan Lein, who had been born and raised on a family farm near Oelwein, decided to do something about the meth epidemic that had put a choke hold on his boyhood home. He decided to clean up the meth problem, as the Assistant County Attorney, with the help of others who were also concerned about the meth epidemic there, that was increasing crime, domestic abuse, child neglect, and all of the other social ills that infect a town when meth is allowed to take control of its residents. The situation in Oelwein was so bad, that the area was being called Methlehem. But, Oelwein is just a drop in a bucket of meth problems that are flooding rural areas across the U.S. Reding says the media is partly to blame for the rise of meth in America.
When meth lab numbers fell after the Combat Meth Act required pseudoephedrine to be put behind pharmacy counters, media coverage about the problem basically suggested that the War on Meth had been won. Yet, reports about meth labs in 2008 and 2009 suggest that meth labs are on the rise. We are, as a nation, in the same situation that the workers in Iowa’s meth packing plants were in every city and town across America and meth labs and meth addiction rates are rising, just like they did in Methlehem.