I remember walking through knee-length grass, trying to avoid sharp metal objects scattered around the yard. As I approached to knock on the door of the dilapidated trailer, I almost gagged on the noxious odor spewing out.
It was either the stench of a hundred cats urinating at the same time or else it was a meth lab. Of course it was a meth lab.
That was in a different era, the mid-90s when methamphetamine was the new “it” drug and Pierce County was the center of the meth universe. (Note: If you somehow missed it, I recommend picking up a copy of The King of Methlehem, a novel that accurately depicts the “tweaker culture.” It was written by Mark Lindquist, a gifted novelist who also moonlights as our elected prosecutor).
The landscape has changed since then. Like so many other homegrown industries, meth production was outsourced to Mexico, where cheap labor, minimal regulations and a corporate (and extremely criminal) distribution system moves it around the world with maximum efficiency.
NAFTA may not have contributed to the offshoring of meth, but other market forces, such as aggressive enforcement, a statute limiting access to precursor chemicals (that’s why you now need I.D. to purchase sudafed) and the courageous efforts of clandestine meth lab teams. All were factors that helped push production out of our region.
Though the diminished number of meth labs has lessened the risk of dangerous explosions, meth is still cheap, easily obtainable and, it would appear, here to stay. It is a very, very poisonous and addictive drug, and its dangers are not limited to those foolish enough to try it.
A recent Trib article reported the results of an autopsy conducted on a two-year-old Spanaway boy, which concluded that his death was due to methamphetamine toxicity. How this toddler came into contact with methamphetamine is now part of an ongoing investigation into his parents’ activities.
Why the lengthy harangue against the evils of methamphetamine? It may seem unnecessary, like constantly pointing out the dangers of drinking and driving. After all, most of us have seen the images associated with meth addicts, including the time lapsed booking photos where young people grow old and wasted in a few short years. That stuff must really be bad, we tell ourselves before moving on without another thought.
When these images, stats and stories become so prevalent we no longer even register them in our minds, the problem is obviously our own complacency. That is why the news that a small boy died because his parents likely chose to bring a poisonous substance into their home was relegated to a tiny, interior section of the paper suitably entitled, “In brief.”
Perhaps in some distant future there will be a cure for addicts enslaved to dangerous drugs like methamphetamine. In the meantime, we should never forget just how destructive these substances are, both to the users and to the broader community which must deal with drug-related theft, robbery and violence, not to mention the exorbitant price of incarceration and treatment.
And then there are the small victims, whose lives are cut short because they were born into a home where meth was more important than they were. For them we need to do more than just remember. We need to act.