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At the Rural Center: Meth--Rural America's Scourge

January 2006
By: Dinah Monahan
When you think of rural America, you think of slower living, friendly neighbors, and tight-knit communities. While all of this is true, rural America now has one other distinction—a tragic and frightening one—methamphetamines. These drugs, unlike all of the others, started and took hold in rural communities across America. Unlike so many other drugs that have a long journey before they get to our streets, meth is easy to make and uses easily accessible ingredients. It is produced in homes, trailers, and shacks in rural America and sold for a huge profit.

Meth is "cooked up" with over-the-counter cold medicines and diet pills, lithium camera batteries, matches, tincture of iodine, and hydrogen peroxide. Flammable household products—including charcoal lighter fluid, gasoline, kerosene, paint thinner, rubbing alcohol, and mineral spirits—may be used in the mix. Corrosive products, such as the muriatic acid used in pools and spas, sulfuric acid in battery acid, and sodium hydroxide from lye-based drain cleaners (Drano® crystals) also may be used in the manufacturing process. In rural areas where anhydrous ammonia is used as a fertilizer, farmers are increasingly finding ammonia tanks that have been tapped by "cooks" using this highly toxic chemical to produce meth.

Methamphetamine can be injected, snorted, smoked, or ingested orally. It usually is a white, odorless, bitter-tasting powder that dissolves easily in water. Crystal meth is often clear; it is found in large chunky crystals that are smoked. Users initially experience a short, intense rush that is followed by a sense of euphoria lasting up to 8 hours. Physiological responses include increased heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and rate of breathing. It produces extra energy and stamina, an increased libido, a sense of invulnerability, and a decrease in appetite.

Chronic high-dose abusers may exhibit increased nervousness, paranoia, schizophrenia-like symptoms, irritability, confusion, and insomnia. Violent and erratic behaviors frequently occur in the last phase of meth binging. Withdrawal from high doses of meth invariably produces depression, which varies in severity and duration, but may last for months or even years.

Methamphetamine use during pregnancy affects the development of a baby's brain, spinal cord, heart, and kidneys. It may result in prenatal complications, such as premature delivery and birth deformities. High doses of the drug may cause a baby's blood pressure to rise rapidly, leading the pre-born child to suffer strokes or brain hemorrhages before birth.

One of the most disturbing aspects of meth is what it does to a person's personality. A woman who normally would be a caring mother can become a monster while on this drug. Terrible abuse and neglect occur when meth is involved.

This is a new reality that all rural centers need to know about and learn to recognize. In our maternity home, the last three mothers who came to us had been on meth. One of the babies died in utero at five months. As of now, all moms are on their own and clean and sober, but it is a struggle. This is our new reality. Meth is the scourge of rural America.

Special thanks to our Whiteriver Office Manager, Misty Dalton, who did the research on this article and who is a courageous young woman who knows firsthand the struggles with this drug. Misty is a testimony of God's divine power and strength which can deliver someone from even the worst drug—methamphetamine.

Dinah Monahan is the Heartbeat International Consultant for Rural and Small Centers. She can be reached at

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