Methamphetamines are a scourge on America.  Before I moved to Tennessee, I heard about an increasing number of meth-related deaths (often heart attacks) in Western North Carolina, where I grew up.  The first counties I lived in when I moved to Tennessee were meccas of meth production.

Meth, like most addictive drugs, plays upon particular weaknesses.  Meth, however, seems particularly suited as a drug for the “common man.”  A drug that helps you work longer hours, feel strong–like superman–and helps you forget the meals you haven’t eaten or been able to afford.  Well, it’s too much for many people in poor communities, rural and urban, to pass up.  This book is definitely on my reading list.


Claremont, CA. They call it the “Superman Syndrome.” People who use methamphetamine often believe that they are capable of doing impossible things. Like flying. Or walking through walls. Or earning a living as a meatpacker in the era of agribusiness.

Nick Reding’s Methland (Bloomsbury, $25) made a number of “Best Books of 2009” lists, but I want to make sure it does not get consigned to the Decade That Was. It is one of the best pieces of book-length journalism that I have read in years, and if you haven’t read it already it should be your must-read book of 2010.

Methland starts out as the tale of one small town – Oelwein, Iowa – so ravaged by small-time methamphetamine production that its officials ban bicycling on Main Street. (Meth makers were riding through downtown with chemical-filled soda bottles strapped to their bikes; the motion helps to “cook” the drug.) Everyone is in a state of collapse: the people who are addicted to the drug, of course, but also the people – the mayor, the prosecutor, the doctor, the policemen – who are trying to fight it.

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