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Meth drug epidemic – our government, Big Pharma and Big Ag all feed it | Healing Talks
Published On: Fri, Feb 24th, 2012

Meth drug epidemic – our government, Big Pharma and Big Ag all feed it

meth addiction

(Healingtalks) The term American Heartland evokes positive images of self-sufficiency, economic well-being, and small town public safety.

That image, however, was tarnished by Timothy McVeigh’s deadly bombing in Oklahoma City which killed 168 and injured more than 800 innocent people. Just as dramatically, if not far more so, meth drug addiction and trafficking have invaded the nation’s rural core.

As Iowa goes, so goes the nation

Journalist Nick Reding’s 2009 novel, Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town, just re-issued in paperback, examines how this new scourge affected the small town of Oelwein, Iowa (pop. 6,415).  While Reding focuses his main attention on this town’s drug trafficking, actually many aspects of this small town’s life were harmed, and much of it triggered by our global economy nose diving. In Oelwein, as elsewhere, the financial crisis set off chain reactions. Businesses cut backs and close downs, causing:

  • High unemployment
  • Decreased public funds
  • Reduced social services…and thus
  • Increase in drugs used for escape/trafficking for income

The native sons and daughters of Oelwein – from anti-drug crusaders, to users and dealers – were also facing larger political forces that have fed this epidemic. They are up against mega bucks poured into Congress by pharmaceutical and agri-business corporations and actually much government collusion in the illegal drug trade.

Drug lobbyists have their way

The Center for Responsive Politics has documented the extent of influence peddling by Big Pharma in 2011, with their lobbying expenditure approaching $250 million. This money was especially funneled to political campaigns, Congress and various national government agencies. Big Pharma’s increases in profits and sales can also can hurt our nation.

Thus when regulations were proposed in 1988 to restrict sales and imports of chemicals used to make illicit drugs, intense lobbying by Big Pharma weakened the proposals. The end result was only a regulating of the raw materials but not the retail medications made from them.

Unlike cocaine, opium and heroine, what makes up meth is not grown abroad. The ingredients are easy to obtain in the US. The “meth cook” simply purchases unregulated cold relief pills to make methamphetamine, a highly addictive and wasting speed drug. In crystalline form it is commonly known as crystal meth. It is home-cooked speed.

meth lab

Meth lab

Ineffective law fails to stem the tide

Because of the growing addiction epidemic, in 2006 Congress passed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act. This legislation was designed to regulate retail over-the-counter sales of cold and allergy medicines. It simply:

  • Limits daily sales
  • Imposes a 30-day purchase limit
  • Calls for products to be stocked behind the drug counter
  • Requires customer ID verification
  • Mandates sales logbooks.

However, due to lobbyist influence, this law actually leaves the door open for meth makers to purchase needed cold medications at drugstores.

Big Ag plants seeds of destruction

Agribusiness, while padding campaign pockets, makes a distinctive contribution to rural communities. Claiming financial need, it hires low-wage, undocumented workers, resulting in unemployment of local residents. Reding’s book depicts the miserable conditions of the local poultry farm workers – with unreasonably long shifts, sub-freezing temperatures, and low wages.

For such workers, there is a perceived need for psychological escape from their bleak existence, plus drugs trafficking becomes a “great” way financially to make a living – and despite the risk of being jailed.

“The harder it is for people to make money honestly, the easier it will be for an increasingly large portion to choose to make it dishonestly,” Reding said in an interview with Jeff Deeney, weekly columnist for The Fix.

undercover sting

Criminal undercover agents

Undercover agents have been frequently known to launch, build up, keep supplied, and then bust meth labs. Thus many meth-lab conviction appeals tend to focus on officer conduct.

In 1995, California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement agents orchestrated the manufacture of more than a million doses of methamphetamine near Redding, California. Their dupes were three California ex-cons, Erwin Spruth, Michael Spruth and John Roger Rowley. The government agents provided them with a 55-gallon barrel of ephedrine, allowing the release of approximately one million doses of methamphetamine to the public.

In 1998, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton asserted that BNE agents, in handing out vast amounts of these chemicals, would be considered having committed heinous crimes had they not worn a badge. The agents’ conduct, Karlton said, led people into the addictive trap of meth use. “There may be some child out there who is dead because of what went on,” he stated. Nevertheless, Karlton allowed prosecution of the Spruth brothers and Rowley to proceed, and they have spent the better part of the last two decades in federal prison. The California narcotics agents, by contrast, were given promotions!

Grand jury investigation

A grand jury investigation into the Spruth/Rowely case was conducted between 2003 and 2004, finding the agents had given inaccurate testimony in 1998 hearing and had released more than five million doses of methamphetamine to the public. The grand jury further concluded that the California BNE had been using reverse sting chemical distributions to raise cash for off-budget accounts, rather than to reduce methamphetamine sales. The grand jurors then unanimously voted to indict 32 law enforcement officers involved in the stings, but the State Attorney General refused to bring charges against any of them.

The Trinity County grand jurors, in response, approved a second indictment, naming then-California Attorney General Dan Lundgren (since elected to Congress) among the defendants. No state prosecutor, however, would proceed with the indictment.


Today, large amounts of meth precursor chemicals continue to be easily obtained by buying small amounts of cold and allergy remedies over the counter – and also by shopping in countries such as Mexico and China, where regulations are less strict. Reverse stings continue to exist, with untold amounts of these chemicals given over to make meth, via government sting operations.

meth not even once

Meth statistics

Since 1990, the overall number of individuals taking prescription drugs illegally seems  to have risen by as much as 500 percent ( 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health). The number of individuals who are meth addicted, because of the ease of manufacturing and relatively low cost, is estimated to be 1.5 million in the US http://www.methhelponline.com. The addiction is increasing in virtually every major city, county and state in the nation. The number addicted on meth crystals dwarfs the number addicted on cocaine, heroine and similar substances. It is so extremely addictive that it is highly recommended not to try even once.

metamorphasis with Meth

Brutality of meth addiction and its indictment of our society

Meth addiction is so brutally devitalizing that it generally leads to tooth loss (known as meth mouth), hair loss, severe skin dryness, many diseases and even death. Inwardly, it leads to a variety of forms of psychosis. It is an indictment of our nation and our society that such an epidemic is allowed to expand through the corruption of our political seats of power.

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About the Author

- Teresa Winchester is the former director of the Otsego County Conservation Association, an upstate New York environmental organization. For the past three years, she has been active in raising public awareness and organizing resistance to natural gas drilling.

Displaying 2 Comments
Have Your Say
  1. Lonedoghowling says:

    Big pharma loves meth.  It is a source of money.  G.O.P. loves big pharma.  It is a source of money.  If the lieing dogs started telling the truth  (and actually caring) we might actually be rid of our problems.  But it’s all about money.  And you sorry suckers vote for those dead beat dogs every chance you get.

  2. Thanks for sharing this. Keep up the good work. I really
    appreciate this sharing this. Nice and informative article.

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