drug use

‘Beautiful Boy’ Chronicles Teen’s Descent Into Meth Addiction

Two of the selling points for living in a small, rural town, is less crime and less drug use. Life is often portrayed, especially in farming communities like mine, as more natural — even holy. But, the myth has been destroyed in recent years as news spread about the opioid epidemic ravishing small towns.

But, before heroin, we were dealing with meth.

Meth (and heroin) tends to be more devastating in towns like mine because of limited mental health services, fewer economic opportunities and our entrenched reactive belief system. And, although how we got here has been heavily documented, how we escape has fallen prey to lazy thinking and a naïve belief that if ‘they just say no,’ the problem will solve itself.

This approach minimizes human frailty and dismisses the long-term impact that childhood decisions and upbringing have on drug use. It fails to address the myriad reasons people relapse.

Meth has made a resurgence in Preble County, and in an Eaton police report, one local resident, who was arrested after police say they found meth in his vehicle, gives one indication of why we are dealing with it again. Some of the chemically-addicted are no longer able to handle ‘normal’ life stressors. The suspect named in the report said he began using meth again ‘to help him handle his long work hours.’ This is one of the tragedies of the small-town, arrest-our-way-out of the drug dilemma approach  — it seeks out the arrest (since arrest ‘prove’ we are doing something) instead of what is best for the community (treatment for individuals trying to work and overcome addiction).

One thing is certain about meth — it is highly addicted, and once entrenched in a community — it is very difficult to eradicate.

Books, like Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff, help explain why.

Painful Memoir

Like all parents, Sheff wants a great life for his son, instead though by his early 20s, the boy (Nic) is a hardcore meth user. The book offers a peak into the devastation that the boy’s addiction has on his parents and siblings. Since the story is told through the eyes of the father, readers get a better feel for the rollercoaster ride of hope and despair a family member endures when dealing with an addict.

Since it is a father’s story, after an opening hook of a college kid gone bad scene, Sheff quickly details his son’s childhood in the opening chapters. Included in this fairly quick sketch is the typical childhood — sports, events and outings. It is marred early on by his parents’ divorce, and the resulting long-distance parental sharing arrangement imposed by the court, but all-in-all his childhood feels very typical.

However, like many kids in the modern era (this was published in 2009), Nic was exposed to drugs at a young age. His first introduction into drugs are cigarettes, marijuana and alcohol — all before the eighth grade. What makes this more intriguing though is the author explains how he was gullible enough to believe it would not happen to his child. And, as the father learns he was too trusting. He relays an event to prove this — at a sleepover, when he thought his son and son’s friend had the flu — he later learned they were sick from being drunk.

This is one of the strengths of the book. It presents, in what feels like real time, the slow revelation of Nic’s illicit drug use, as the author realizes he’s failing to protect his son.

Understanding Addiction

Peppered throughout the book are significant sections about the drug itself. This is a testament to the father’s desire to understand why his son cannot shake the habit. Readers will walk away with a new appreciation for just how devastating the drug is to the brain — and how the drug destroys it to the point of creating a never-ending trap for users. This is one reason long-term rehab sessions are often required for meth addicts.

But, the father is not without fault –nor does he pretend to be. He openly admits to smoking marijuana with Nic when the boy was 17. Although, the father is empathetic — and open to some drug use — by the end of the book, he, like many others, reaches a point where he is no longer willing to solve Nic’s addiction.

Throughout this journey, the author does not hide his anger, fear, hate, and overwhelming love for his son. In the end, through all the drug-related disappearances and relapses, the father finally realizes he’s not the solution.

Nic must find his own way out.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5. The book effectively captures the emotional rollercoaster ride family members of addicts face. Many of us in Preble County have faced this. The book is filled with all the expected approaches to solving addiction: AA meetings, rehab, medication and therapy. But, mostly, the book is a story of hope.


Why Does Meth Appeal To Rural Counties?

This article from 2001 about Preble County gives three clues: inexpensive high, availability of raw materials, and the ability to turn a large profit from small investment. Our isolation also helps. Those wishing to learn more about the meth problem in rural towns can read Methland.

Categories: 8th congressional district, Books I have read, drug addiction, drug use, My America, Preble County

‘Cornbread Mafia’ Describes The Rise, And Fall, Of Marijuana Production In Kentucky

As I examine my county’s long-term relationship with marijuana, besides researching our past, I’ve turned to books that highlight the history of marijuana production in the United States.

Ohio, which recently approved medical marijuana, began its love affair with the drug in the early-to-mid 1970s. Preble County saw an increase in production, and consumption, that mostly correlates with the return of Vietnam vets. According to articles from the late 1970s, one Preble County farmer — and Vietnam vet — was caught up in a drug smuggling deal that left two dead and several imprisoned. By the late 1970s, this farmer was receiving weekly shipments of 25-50 pounds of pot.

Each week’s delivery would supply 100-200 users with enough pot for a year.

Cornbread Mafia

The Cornbread Mafia by James Higdon takes place about three hours south of Preble County in central Kentucky. It is a story of a code of silence, murder, crooked cops, and ‘good ole boy’ farmers perfecting their product through careful breeding until the weed grown in Kentucky can command top dollar.

Even though the author begins the book with some earlier history to help frame the belief system of Marion County, Kentucky, their pot production also begins in the mid-to-late 1970s. Much of the production was hidden in plain site due to the players involved. Higdon writes,

For the first decade of the marijuana era in Marion County, all processing from a number of top growers was centralized in one location, a place no one would suspect of housing a multimillion-dollar illicit factory — on a farm owned by a prominent doctor, whose brother had once been mayor of Lebanon. No one would have guessed that the stately proportioned barns and outbuildings concealed several tons of high-grade sinsemilla in any given October between 1972-1980.

Native Tells Story

Higdon, a Lebanon native and journalism major, wrote the book shortly after college, and since he has an understanding of the mindset of the region, it gives him an edge in telling the story. The characters come across as authentic, and not caricatures. It is a region, that for the most part, view the book’s main character, Johnny Boone, as a local Robin Hood type hero. By the end of the book Boone, who served two prison terms, is a fugitive.

The story is fairly complicated with its cast of 5-10 characters who are heavily involved in the central Kentucky’s marijuana business. As the feds start cracking down on the group, they are eventually forced to grow their crops in other Midwest states — but they always bring it back to Marion County for processing, which also ensures they get top dollar when they distribute it.

Eventually, 70 Kentuckians are arrested, and true to their values, they refuse to ‘rat out’ each other or accept plea bargains that will harm their partners. This is phenomenal since the sentences they receive range from six months in jail to 20 years in prison.

Quicken The Pace

My main critiques of the book is it starts off a little slow as the author explains the mores of the region, which is essential to the story, but it could have been trimmed. Also, the stories of minor characters could be condensed.

For the most part, it is a story of impoverished, yet entrepreneurial, Kentucky farmers doing what they do best — perfecting a crop and marketing it. If not for the handful of murders in the story line, the book would have a ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ feel to it.

Published in 2012, the book is a little dated because the story of Johnny Boone has evolved (I won’t link to it in case you want to read the book first), and at least one member of the Cornbread Mafia has written a memoir, which, of course, adds to the story. At some point, I’ll have to read that one as well.

Rating 4/5. If you are looking for a crime story — or are interested in marijuana production in the 1970s and 1980s — this is a very enjoyable read with very interesting characters.

Local Eyes Only

1982 marijuana bust in Preble County netting an estimated $10 million in drugs and equipment — or nearly $26 million in 2017 dollars.

Categories: American History, drug use, My America | Tags: ,