By Jamie Lindsey
We always want to see the best in people. Sometimes we try so hard to give people the benefit of the doubt, look past their faults, and hope they have good intentions. Often, we watch the places we love slowly turn into places we want to abandon. While I love Joplin, the city I grew up in, I am also starting to resent living in the middle of the city. And it’s because of one thing: Meth.
Most people that live in this part of the country have in one way or another been affected by the illicit use of methamphetamine. The drug has been around the area for decades and has had everlasting effects. Unfortunately, I see the effects everyday. I see the constant flow of strangers going from house to house while yelling and screaming nonsense at each other. Houses with garbage and random junk sprawled around the yard are all around my neighborhood. All hours of the day and night, there is someone in the alleyway or hammering away on their latest late night project. There’s always music blaring at 1 a.m. while the next door neighbors are having a garage party. It’s exhausting. But this where I live.
Meth has always been around in my life. My father, an addict, and many other family members were using during most of my childhood. Dad couldn’t keep a job, mostly because of the meth use and the illegal activities that came with the addiction, so the biggest thing I remember growing up was jumping from house to house around town while also getting our utilities shut off numerous times. My dad still suffers from the addiction today, as well as many other people in Joplin and the surrounding Midwest.
Many people may not know the reason meth sparked into such a national crisis. But in 1939 meth used to actually be in the form of medication prescribed to mostly normal people for a variety of reasons including narcolepsy, weight gain, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, the common cold, hyperactivity, impotence, fatigue, and alcoholism. It suppressed the need for sleep, food, and hydration, so naturally it had been used by workers so they could work longer, harder and make more money, according to a book entitled, “Methland” by Nick Reding. It wasn’t only workers who used meth. When the drug was produced in Japan in 1898, the recipe had changed from “just a feel-good feeling” to one that uses ephedrine and red phosphorus that turned “feel-good” into “work-hard.” Reding also discusses the use of meth by soldiers during WWII. The quick recipe eventually became known as “Nazi Meth” and the recipe had spread around the world, finally landing in the U.S., particularly in the Midwest.
The drug mostly used to only come from Mexico, made in super labs that produce pounds at a time, and then smuggled and transferred to the U.S. Yes, if you’re wondering, much like “Breaking Bad.” Most probably wouldn’t guess, but the mass amounts of meth brought into the Midwest was by a woman named Lori Arnold. Lori Arnold had a connection with one of the Mexican Cartels and was quickly becoming the person that was bringing pounds upon pounds of meth straight into the Midwest area. With the money she gained, she bought businesses to launder her money and have easily accessible points to deal meth. It was when she started her super lab (the biggest super lab outside of California) that she eventually was caught. However, that didn’t stop the flow of meth coming into the area.
The recipe to make meth used to be a complicated recipe and usually would have to involve a chemist. Any normal person with the basic knowledge of science wouldn’t be able to complete such a complicated recipe successfully. It was during WWII when a quick recipe was discovered and shared. That’s the same recipe that people in my neighborhood are probably using every night.
Lithium strips, red phosphorus from matchbooks, ephedrine and many more nasty and dangerous ingredients are used to make meth. That’s why meth lab explosions are so common in the area. It’s not from the smuggled meth from Mexico, but rather the dangerous mix of chemicals in the wrong order, or exposed to flame, that creates the burst.
The effects of meth are indefinite. Although it can be funny to joke about people being on meth and acting crazy, it really is sad to see people suffer from such a horrible addiction. Meth users usually get a huge rush of endorphins that make them start to feel good. This is followed by an overconfident attitude and a feeling of being able to do what one pleases. This is usually where the sex drive is increased followed by the feeling of being invisible. Meth users have been known to have sex for hours without any kind of break, as well as not needing to eat or drink anything. When a meth addict is coming down from the drug however, the effects are a little different. This is where we start to see users fidget, piddle, and begin doing really weird things like flinging their body extremities around, wide-eyed, while talking to themselves.
Once the homemade recipe was given to one person, it spread like wildfire across the U.S. The government and police weren’t aware of the spread until meth explosions and overdose deaths started to be counted in staggering numbers. Once the homemade “Nazi Meth” recipe was out there, everyone took advantage. Which is why, about 20 years after the widespread wave of meth-making, they were finally passing laws that prevented people from buying mass amounts of ephedrine.
Which brings us back to Joplin and the insane amounts of meth that have been in this area for over 30 years. The effects are staggering. House after house is beat down, junked out and full of addicts. Bicycles, lawn-mowers, grills, tools and other property is constantly stolen by meth heads. (I know because my neighbors backyard is a junkyard of bicycle parts). Property damage is common. Decreases in property value is common. Using precious tax money that could be used for education and our crap roads in Joplin are now being used for court costs and cleaning up the streets.
Joplin is a great town with a lot of really cool places to go. But it is slowly deteriorating. And if you don’t live in the middle of town like I do, you may not see the effects as much as me. I am worried for our great town of Joplin and what it is slowly turning into. (Or maybe I am just seeing the effects a little too late). The sidewalk in front of my house is now a haven for leftover store carts and dirty needles. I am resenting the city I grew up in and I hate feeling that way. I hope that one day we will see the streets and the people cleaner. I hope there are enough resources for every addict.
If Joplin has anything, it is hope. We are the hope dealers of the midwest. Maybe one day, we will see all of our streets clean. Until then, we can only hope. (And lock up your bicycles FOR REAL).