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Bad, Bad Lori Arnold
July 16, 2012 6:29 PM   Subscribe

How comedian Tom Arnold's little sister Lori started the Midwest meth epidemic. (NSFW Playboy link: Instapaper, Readability mirrors.)

In 1984, Lori Arnold-Woten was a depressed nineteen-year-old, already divorced at sixteen and now remarried with a new baby and another abusive husband. Then she tried meth for the first time. Within a month, eighth-grade-dropout Lori was well on her way to creating "the Midwest's first and last bona fide crank empire."

Via Longform. Illustrated by Dave McKean! Previously linked in the comments to this post, because I couldn't believe it hadn't been linked already.
posted by nicebookrack (98 comments total) 74 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is a really interesting story and well-deserving of an FPP. Thanks for posting.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:42 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm very much looking forward to reading the Playboy link. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.
posted by item at 6:45 PM on July 16, 2012


What a story. Thanks for this.
posted by rtha at 6:50 PM on July 16, 2012


Yeah, definitely glad to see this get its own FPP. As I said in the Breaking Bad thread*, the fact that she was related to Tom Arnold isn't close to the most interesting part.


*See ish 117945! -Ed
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 6:51 PM on July 16, 2012


Amazing, amazing find, this is really a fantastic article.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:00 PM on July 16, 2012


So.... we really are reading Playboy for the articles now?
posted by spilon at 7:07 PM on July 16, 2012 [16 favorites]


My parents grew up in the area and my dad's older brothers hung out with Tom quite a bit back in the day - I'm conflicted about whether I can send a playboy article out to my giant Irish Catholic family e-mail list, but I know they'd be interested.
posted by HotPants at 7:11 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


one heck of a story, i am interested in this idea that controlling P2P propane made more addictive, lower quality meth--and the implications of that
posted by PinkMoose at 7:12 PM on July 16, 2012


Everyone was paranoid and getting suspicious of one another. A few years of staying awake all the time will do that to you.

This line reminded me of the people I was standing next to in line at the grocery store the other day. They looked like they had been awake for a couple of months at least.

It's an interesting article, thanks for posting this. Meth is a nasty, nasty drug, based on what I see of people who are using. It goes along neatly with diseases like HIV, too, because when you get all tweaked out you have the energy not just for cleaning your yard, but also lots of risky sex. (And never mind the needle sharing, if you are using it that way.)
posted by Forktine at 7:12 PM on July 16, 2012


Unicorn on the cob noted the Lori/meth link in a post last year, about the book Methland.
posted by scruss at 7:13 PM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


‘In less than five years after I tried my first line of meth, I had sold enough of the drug to buy a bar, a range of sports cars, several planes, a 170-acre horse ranch, 14 houses, a car lot, and I owned $73,000 in jewellery alone.’

YMMV
posted by DU at 7:13 PM on July 16, 2012 [21 favorites]


I misread this as a story about the great Midwest math epidemic. Most disappointing.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:15 PM on July 16, 2012 [23 favorites]


laundering drug money through a horse-racing operation is that if you’re not careful, it will eat up every meth dollar you make. We were going through at least $100,000 a month on the horses. I began spending my nights doing the paperwork. Every receipt had to be logged and marked, and I tried to account for every dollar. The car lot, the bar, the horse operation, all the vehicles and the boats, the horses—I was making sure every penny of it looked legit. I began buying houses, little rental houses all over town. I would buy them on time, then rent them out to friends who were eligible for Section 8 money from the government. The checks were sent directly to me. It was a great business, profitable and a way to hide plenty of cash because of all the expenses you could put against the houses.

I'm not understanding how this laundering works. You start with a pile of cash, and... spend it at Home Depot instead of banking it? What?
posted by crapmatic at 7:27 PM on July 16, 2012


So.... we really are reading Playboy for the articles now?

It's not either/or.


This is a hell of a story.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:28 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Instead of cash you have assets, like real property and fancy horses.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 7:28 PM on July 16, 2012


I misread this as a story about the great Midwest math epidemic. Most disappointing.

Sorry - I was planning to unleash the great Midwest Math Epidemic in 1981, but by 7th grade the following year I was flailing at pre-algebra and the whole movement petered out. That I was in New Jersey probably didn't help either.
posted by jalexei at 7:28 PM on July 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


I only just realized that Tom Arnold is not John Goodman.
Ever since watching Roseanne a bunch if times in the early/mid 90s, I always assumed Roseanne was married to John Goodman in real life and his real name was Tom Arnold. Up until 30 seconds ago.

I don't know who this real Tom Arnold guy is.
posted by Bwithh at 7:31 PM on July 16, 2012 [29 favorites]


Traditional real estate money laundering just means owning it and claiming that people are paying you a high rent. Money appears, you pay taxes on it, everything is good.

The Section 8 business seems like a bonus scam (and why not?) where you own the property and register it for tenants that qualify for rent assistance. The state sends you the rent assistance check on top of whatever money the tenants might be kicking in, but the important thing is claiming the high rent as income.

I'm not sure about some of the other stuff.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:39 PM on July 16, 2012


It was a great business, profitable and a way to hide plenty of cash because of all the expenses you could put against the houses.
I'm not understanding how this laundering works. You start with a pile of cash, and... spend it at Home Depot instead of banking it? What?

My interpretation of this is that they could hide drug profits by spending it on housing expenses without putting it on the books or keeping any receipts. For instance, if a house you own needs new plumbing, you just pay it with drug money and don't enter the expense in your books. This unbooked expense essentially becomes profit. On the books, you are renting these remarkably problem-free buildings to friends for reasonable rates, making an excellent profit due to the apparently-low overhead.
posted by Edgewise at 7:44 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not understanding how this laundering works. You start with a pile of cash, and... spend it at Home Depot instead of banking it? What?

There's a couple of ways it can work, especially if you're working cash.

In the case of the rentals, section 8 money covers a certain dollar figure that you collect. The renter is responsible for the rest of the stated rent. The launderer simply tells the government their collecting the highest rent allowable, and applies their dirty money to the difference, and it's suddenly clean.

As far as the Home Depot angle, that's probably not what would happen due to HD fiscal controls. However, one might go to the locally owned mom-n-pop hardware store and say "look...I need $100 worth of stuff to fix up my rentals. How about you charge me $500, and we'll split the $400 change. You figure out how to dress that up on your books.".
posted by kjs3 at 7:46 PM on July 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not understanding how this laundering works. You start with a pile of cash, and... spend it at Home Depot instead of banking it? What?

And then the IRS catches you by comparing your reported outlays against similar businesses!

Forensic accounting is fascinating stuff.
posted by winna at 7:49 PM on July 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


I had heard about this someplace and was curious to learn more. Thanks for posting!
posted by KokuRyu at 7:51 PM on July 16, 2012


Aw, I read this at first as "math epidemic," and I was all excited about girls across the Midwest suddenly getting really into math and winning Math Olympics and things like that. But it isn't that. Not at all. :(
posted by daisystomper at 7:51 PM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's also written by Karl Taro Greenfeld... I don't know what I think about that.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:53 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


One night [my husband] came back from the bar, walked in the door and said, “How many do you want?”

“How many what?” I asked.

“Bullets,” he said.

Oh no, I thought, he’s drunk.

He went into the bedroom and started loading a rifle.

I’m thinking this is bad, so I grab Josh and go running out of the house and hide behind the car. I kept my head down because I knew he would shoot at me.

“Come on, Floyd, don’t shoot.”

And he started calling me a gook. He was having some kind of flashback.

He chased me around, then shot at me, bullets bouncing off the car. “Oh my God,” I shouted, “you hit Josh.”

He hadn’t, but my lie made him stop.
Jesus.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:54 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Weirdly, the saddest part to me is how clearly Lori had/has the makings a brilliant businesswoman. She was successfully running and keeping the books for 3+ multimillion-dollar businesses out of her home, and she revolutionized her industry, so to speak--she should be wearing power suits on the cover of Fortune. But her abusive background, gender, and lack of education meant she'd probably never (think she could) get a break in legitimate business. And now as a recovering addict with a felony record, she'll likely never get a second chance.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:54 PM on July 16, 2012 [32 favorites]


Meth is pure fucking evil. Like maybe the anthropomorphic personification of all evil in the universe.
posted by elizardbits at 7:58 PM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't know who this real Tom Arnold guy is.

He's the star of the 1996 action film 'Eraser'.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:02 PM on July 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


She was successfully running and keeping the books for 3+ multimillion-dollar businesses out of her home, and she revolutionized her industry, so to speak...

Reminds me of this ad which ran in the employment wanted section of the Toronto Financial Post back in '01.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:02 PM on July 16, 2012 [13 favorites]


Good story, and great writing, half way between Cormac MacCarthy and This American Life, in a good way.
posted by carter at 8:02 PM on July 16, 2012


Reminds me of this ad which ran in the employment wanted section of the Toronto Financial Post back in '01.

I feel like that was someone who worked with Howard Marks but I can't figure out who.
posted by elizardbits at 8:04 PM on July 16, 2012


Actually, the great advantage of real estate is the paper losses that you can use to offset taxable income in other ventures. This would be where false expense receipts come in. The IRS isn't very likely to trip up on this -- high expenses can be common in the industry-
posted by dhartung at 8:06 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Weirdly, the saddest part to me is how clearly Lori had/has the makings a brilliant businesswoman.

I find that true when I hear stories about many other convicted drug dealers. If they'd grown up in a different enviorment where they had better guidance in regards to making good life choices & had more employment options ... who knows who they would have become?
posted by echolalia67 at 8:12 PM on July 16, 2012


I bet this article is going to make the Ottumwa Chamber of Commerce folks pretty mad.
Ottumwa is known for being the Video Game Capital of the World, and they don't want bad press like this ruining the wave of civic pride that their favorite adopted son, Billy Mitchell brought. Now there's a good role model for Ottumwa youngsters.
Winners don't use drugs, see.
posted by Bwithh at 8:15 PM on July 16, 2012


Imagine being her son. Jesus.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:16 PM on July 16, 2012


In the next few years, Tom Arnold will increasing experience going to a party and being asked if he is Lori's brother.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:18 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Tom Arnold's little sister Lori started the Midwest meth epidemic

Tom Arnold's little sister is boredom, accessible ingredients, and disappearing job opportunities?
posted by Afroblanco at 8:30 PM on July 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


Mike was getting sick of running down here every other day, and he said the guy he was scoring from had heard of the legendary Floyd and wouldn’t mind coming down and meeting him in person.

Steve J. pulled up to our shabby-ass cabin in a white Corvette. I walked out on the porch. “Hey, nice car!”

Steve nodded, looked me over, tossed up the keys and said, “Here, it’s yours.”

He handed me a quarter pound of meth. “Pay me when you get the money, honey.”



Huh? How does this work? Steve is Meth Dealer Santa?
posted by Bwithh at 8:31 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tom Arnold's little sister is boredom, accessible ingredients, and disappearing job opportunities?

No, that would be Tom Arnold.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:33 PM on July 16, 2012 [14 favorites]


Meth is pure fucking evil. Like maybe the anthropomorphic personification of all evil in the universe.

Reefer madness.
posted by Justinian at 8:34 PM on July 16, 2012


elizardbits: "Meth is pure fucking evil. Like maybe the anthropomorphic personification of all evil in the universe."

Wouldn't that be more like... A Crack Hitler?
posted by symbioid at 8:35 PM on July 16, 2012


I always wonder about portrayals like this were people come out of prison to little/nothing after dealing with tremendous sums. At the peak she was pulling in 5-10 million a year in a cash business.

There was so much money and she talks about burying large sums in the back yard. It seems like it would have been so easy to set aside a few hundred thousand dollars and have left that somewhere secure enough that it would still be accessible in 16 years. Buried in a remote location, stashed with a friend, stashed with a family member.

What would you even be guilty of if you dug up assets from your criminal era, you already did time for the crime?
posted by pseudonick at 8:36 PM on July 16, 2012


PinkMoose: this idea that controlling P2P propane made more addictive, lower quality meth

One(?) of the articles I read discussed that the "purer" meth was just as addictive as the lower-quality stuff. It just didn't contain the extra cocktail of who-knows-what-chemicals in the cheap stuff left from the original cold meds and whatever was used to cut them into meth. Like (very bad, loose analogy ahead) medical-grade morphine VS heroin cut with baby formula and PCP.
posted by nicebookrack at 8:47 PM on July 16, 2012


Yeah, take this story with a big chunk of salt. Some of it has more than a hint self-servingness, and it doesn't seem like the writer is checking anything nor is he asking anyone else I.e. this is not journalism, more like semi-ghost writing. Entertaining though.
posted by Bwithh at 9:01 PM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Reefer madness.

Not comparable in the slightest. Meth destroys people and families.

Weed just makes them slightly less annoying for a short period of time.
posted by Aquaman at 9:02 PM on July 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


Buried in a remote location, stashed with a friend, stashed with a family member...

...or in a banana stand?

If they'd grown up in a different enviorment where they had better guidance in regards to making good life choices & had more employment options ... who knows who they would have become?

Personally, I think it works in the opposite fashion: the bar is much lower to becoming a major player in the criminal world. Anyone capeable of being salesperson of the month in a legal business could probably go far in a drug enterprise. One of the running jokes we had in undergrad was that graduating from the most difficult engineering program in the country demonstrated that you had sufficient technical and organizational skills to successfully plan and execute a federal crime. Not only are legal profits harder to make in the first place, the extra competition makes it even more difficult to be a runaway success.

From the article, controlling the source of P2P [boy does the phrase "P2P distribution network" have a very different meaning now] was virtually 100% effective; the sources of that kind of meth dried up completely. If the ephedrine based alternative hadn't been an option, the meth epidemic would probably have shut down altogether (by which I mean they would have all sought out alternatives like oxycontin sooner). No wonder they tried restrictions on ephedrine, since the P2P controls were so successfull.
posted by ceribus peribus at 9:05 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Meth destroys people and families.

Families are the least of it. That shit destroys your entire body and your mind in ways you can't even begin to fucking imagine.
posted by elizardbits at 9:08 PM on July 16, 2012


Am I the only one who read this and spent way too much time thinking about The Dancing Outlaw II?

A fascinating read, nonetheless.
posted by Seamus at 9:12 PM on July 16, 2012


I don't know who this real Tom Arnold guy is.

Two words: True Lies.
posted by Malice at 9:13 PM on July 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


In 1984, Lori Arnold-Woten was a depressed nineteen-year-old, already divorced at sixteen and now remarried with a new baby and another abusive husband.

Surely this should be 1974? She's in her early 50s now.
posted by jokeefe at 9:23 PM on July 16, 2012


What load of bullshit.

I thought we mefites were beyond this flashy, New York Post crap. Oh wait, it's in the Midwest, therefore it must be true. Oh wait, there's Chemistry, therefore it must be true.
posted by Sphinx at 9:36 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meth destroys people and families.

So does heroin, cocaine, etc, etc. Meth isn't particularly special in that regard. The main difference is how cheap and accessible it is.
posted by Justinian at 9:37 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


What load of bullshit.

I thought we mefites were beyond this flashy, New York Post crap. Oh wait, it's in the Midwest, therefore it must be true. Oh wait, there's Chemistry, therefore it must be true.


Care to elaborate?
posted by cairdeas at 10:09 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


He was also on Roseanne. He played Arnie, Dan's annoying friend.
posted by Bonzai at 10:27 PM on July 16, 2012


It would be interesting to see what great, sprawling New Yorker stuff could be made of a real profile of this character.

This is interesting, of course, but really reads like a preview for a book deal.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:53 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, take this story with a big chunk of salt. Some of it has more than a hint self-servingness, and it doesn't seem like the writer is checking anything nor is he asking anyone else I.e. this is not journalism, more like semi-ghost writing. Entertaining though.

I'm looking for a salt mine. I found not a shred of guilt in her telling of what she did or rather the retelling through KTG's words. Oh, I forgot, she only made "pure meth" for pure reasons. Why should she care about all those stupid Midwesterners she introduced to a killer drug. She and her husband were "just providing a little diversion for folks who desperately needed it".
posted by Isadorady at 11:01 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree completely with elizardbits assertion that meth is pretty much pure evil.
posted by Xoebe at 11:11 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Or a movie deal. (Lots of photos on this page.)
posted by caclwmr4 at 11:39 PM on July 16, 2012


This reminds me of the movie Blow. I remember watching that and thinking huh, it's really that easy to become a drug baron?
posted by fshgrl at 12:20 AM on July 17, 2012


You know, what's really kind of stupid here is that we can even be arguing about meth. Most of us know that pot's no big deal, but the government insisting that it will eat your babies means that we don't trust anything else it says about drugs. So some of us think that meth is pure evil, based mostly on what they tell us, and others don't, and it's really hard to tell who's correct. Few of us, as individuals, can collect enough data to really understand the drug.

Wouldn't it be nice to just be able to link to a government website and know that what you read was actually true? And that it was the best known source?

At one time, the US government was fairly close to this in many areas. I would like that government back, please.
posted by Malor at 3:20 AM on July 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


fshgrl: Only in the sense that The Social Network demonstrates how easy it is to invent a paradigm-changing web utility valued at $100 billion. That is, the success story is an outlier, based on a freak combination of risk-taking, hard work, timing and sheer luck.

Blow of course also has an unreliable narrator with an agenda, which also seems to how this Lori Arnold-Woten piece is shaking out.
posted by La Cieca at 4:26 AM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wouldn't it be nice to just be able to link to a government website and know that what you read was actually true? And that it was the best known source? At one time, the US government was fairly close to this in many areas. I would like that government back, please.

The government that would lay a sad quarter pound bag from a bust on a table for the media cameras and proclaim it worth a bajillion dollars on the street?
posted by hal9k at 4:28 AM on July 17, 2012


Unfortunately, I have watched meth destroy the lives of several childhood friends. I don't need the government to tell me it's bad stuff. In one case, going to prison was the best thing that could have happened because she got into rehab (something a meth user would never be able to afford on their own because they can't hold a job and spend any money they do get in meth.)
posted by hydropsyche at 4:29 AM on July 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is meth abuse qualitatively different from the improper use of amphetamine analogs prescribed for ADHD? When I was teaching in grad school, a lot of the undergrads were pretty blasé about their or their friends rcrestionally misusing prescription amphetamine, although no one ever mentioned grinding up the pills and snorting them -- which I believe is how the time delay release mechanism of the drug is circumvented.

In undergrad I also knew a Marine professor who made occasional jokes about the use of stimulants by the USAF -- this was just long enough after the friendly fire incident where the Canadian soldiers were killed that his sense of humour seemed dark but not vicious. I know amphetamine was used by a number of branches of the armed forces during WWII. How is this use different from meth abuse? Is it simply th case that some people are more vulnerable to the potential of stimulant abuse? In other words, is it simply the drug, or is some combination of the drug and the individual.

I don't know anything about this, I'm a naïf.
posted by samofidelis at 4:29 AM on July 17, 2012


Wouldn't it be nice to just be able to link to a government website and know that what you read was actually true?

Yes, in the sense that public health should be a government concern. But at the moment public education (in some places, anyway) still tries to make teenagers think that abstinence is the only way of addressing STDs and unwanted pregnancy, so it's not going to be a quick process. Unforunately, in the meantime, ignorance and half-truth will be left to fill in the gaps. What this means is that people whose only information is "meth is pure evil" are particularly vulnerable to a drug whose insidious effects are not always apparent in the short term.
posted by La Cieca at 4:36 AM on July 17, 2012


I know amphetamine was used by a number of branches of the armed forces during WWII. How is this use different from meth abuse?

Well, there's a big difference between use and abuse. To wit, everyone does better (better test scores, better concentration, etc.) on a little bit of amphetamine, but once you start getting into large doses and staying up for days at a time, things go South quickly. One can abuse the drugs prescribed for ADHD, but use is not necessarily abuse. One can also be dependent on the drug, that is, one may well need to take it every day to function "normally" without shading into abuse.

Methland is a book worth reading.
posted by OmieWise at 4:59 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


So does heroin, cocaine, etc, etc. Meth isn't particularly special in that regard. The main difference is how cheap and accessible it is.

So? You haven't presented a reason that meth isn't singularly bad. Saying it's horrible does not suggest that other drugs aren't.
posted by OmieWise at 5:01 AM on July 17, 2012


Well, there's a big difference between use and abuse [...]once you start getting into large doses and staying up for days at a time, things go South quickly. One can abuse the drugs prescribed for ADHD, but use is not necessarily abuse. One can also be dependent on the drug, that is, one may well need to take it every day to function "normally" without shading into abuse.

Of course, but how is the notion that amphetamine or its derivatives can be safely used compatible with the idea that meth is so dangerous it can't be resisted or used at a non-destructive level? What gives some people control and removes others' agency? Is it the structure of a doctor's care? If so, isn't that the clear mechanism for treatment of meth addiction?
posted by samofidelis at 5:31 AM on July 17, 2012


In that Daily Mail (blergh) article linked in above comments, Lori apparently says she wants Angelina Jolie to play her in the movie version of her life.

Riiiiiiiiiiight.
posted by Bwithh at 6:33 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the thing that strikes me about this article is not the meth. That I get. It's boring as hell to be broke, underemployed, and struggling to get by. Something like meth takes the edge of the boredom and allows the individual to feel something, anything, even if it sucks later on.

What upsets me and breaks my heart is the ease with which a young woman's life was quickly damaged past the point of normalcy. I went to school with girls who made similar decisions and the pairing with much, much older men combined with drugs and blowing off school put them in similar situations as Lori. None created a meth empire, to my knowledge, but all of them have fallen far short of what they could have been if someone had stepped in and said, "A 23 year old should not be allowed to date a 13 year old."

In my opinion, these relationships of adult males and very, very underage girls is just as bad as the clandestine secret-driven abuses of pedophiles like Sandusky. These girls are actively encouraged to be with an older man and to use their sexuality as a path out of their current lives. There are laws on the books to prevent this, but when the parents explicitly condone this, there's very little the law can do. It seriously blows my mind that her mother and step-father encouraged her to marry at 14/15. There is no way that should ever be okay.
posted by teleri025 at 6:40 AM on July 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


Most of us know that pot's no big deal, but the government insisting that it will eat your babies means that we don't trust anything else it says about drugs.

I had quite a bit of experience using it and being around people that used it when it swept through the club scene in the mid 2000s. I dabbled, never bought it, but used it more than I was comfortable with. I had friends that basically used it non stop for years. Most of them held down full time, well paying jobs. Very few of them had health problems that I was aware of. One guy went to jail. Another guy had a nervous breakdown and was committed for a while, but I think that had a lot to do with losing millions in the dot com crash at the same time. A LOT of friends got really boring and annoying and I stopped being friends with them for a while. As far as I can tell most of them eventually quit and settled down after they got bored with it.

But in this case, you're talking about educated, relatively well off people with strong support structures and connections they could fall back on if things went wrong. It's a risky drug. It's not evil incarnate. I wouldn't recommend it, especially since there are legal alternatives like Ritalin that are fairly easy to get with a prescription.
posted by empath at 6:54 AM on July 17, 2012


One of the primary reasons meth is such a fucked drug is that it is CHEAP. You can get all sorts of fux0red for a week at a time for $200. Or less, back in the era she's discussing.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 7:33 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I believe you, empath, but it's that old saw about the plural of anecdote not being data. In your social group, it didn't seem to cause many problems. But, as you point out, that's a very affluent, upper-middle-class group of people. So how far does that experience generalize? Obviously, it messes up at least some people pretty horribly. Does anyone know what the real risks are?

My real complaint is just that we can't trust the government in this area. They explicitly and repeatedly lie to us about this stuff. They are not a good source, so we can't make decisions based on the garbage they're feeding us. And THAT'S what really upsets me -- not whether or not meth is a big problem, because I'll never use it anyway, but because we're being deliberately deprived of good information, and being fed lies instead. From the government, which we're supposed to be able to trust.

Call me naive and hopelessly idealistic, but I don't think a government that's supposedly of, by, and for the people, should be manipulating the people by feeding them lies. And this issue strikes me as a good example of how those lies are causing damage. We can't talk truly intelligently about this lady's crimes. We're being deliberately deprived of the full context we need to understand what's going on.
posted by Malor at 8:05 AM on July 17, 2012


"Is meth abuse qualitatively different from the improper use of amphetamine analogs prescribed for ADHD? [...] I know amphetamine was used by a number of branches of the armed forces during WWII. How is this use different from meth abuse? Is it simply th case that some people are more vulnerable to the potential of stimulant abuse? In other words, is it simply the drug, or is some combination of the drug and the individual."

It's always some combination. The dosages make a big difference, too. Methamphetamine is actually legally available via prescription as Desoxyn for the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy, typically at dosages of 5-15mg/day.* Compare this to a serious meth addict, who might be using over 500mg/day. Certain changes in the brain only occur at higher levels of use.

*This means it [Schedule II] is considered by the government to be less harmful and of more medical value than cannabis [Schedule I].

Call me naive and hopelessly idealistic, but I don't think a government that's supposedly of, by, and for the people, should be manipulating the people by feeding them lies.

You're naive and hopelessly idealistic, but also entirely right; that's a good thing.
posted by nTeleKy at 8:20 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was just dropping in to echo Purposeful Grimace above - one of the reasons why meth is so hated is that it's cheap, young people do it, they turn into zombies, and (apparently) it was an "epidemic".

It seems that meth destroys dopamine receptors (warning: there is a very gruesome picture of teeth, link to scholarly articles), meaning users eventually can't feel any pleasure, which is pretty frightening to contemplate.

Perhaps there is a bit of racism thrown in there too. Crack cocaine has had a similarly devastating effect on communities, but those are black communities, while meth is shocking because it is a "white" drug - it can't happen here!
posted by KokuRyu at 8:25 AM on July 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thanks, nTekeKy.
posted by samofidelis at 8:31 AM on July 17, 2012


KokuRyu: I don't want to sound like an apologist, but the science in this report is heavily cut with sensationalism:


* Over time, meth destroys dopamine receptors, making it impossible to feel pleasure.

* Although these pleasure centers can heal over time, research suggests that damage to users' cognitive abilities may be permanent.


The word "destroys" is inaccurate, I think: "damages" or "impairs" would be more like it. Apparently in most cases the dopamine receptors recover, though it takes time and (presumably) general good health, as with any other healing process.

The "cognitive abilities" standard is hazier and it seems difficult to control for. A lot of people who use meth also heavily use other chemicals, notably alcohol and nicotine, and moreover heavy meth use is generally abusive on the body: users don't eat for long periods, they get dehydrated, they go without sleeping for days.

So it may well be that if you just take a group of people, feed them a lot of booze and cigarettes (and nothing else), and then make them stay awake for 96 hours at a stretch repeatedly over the course of several months, some of them are going to show neurological damage in the long run.

Of course you can argue that without the meth, they're probably not going to do all this crazy stuff, but my point is that the loss of cognitive ability mentioned is not directly caused by exposure to meth. If I go out drinking every night for a week and then, dog tired, I catch the flu, is anyone going to say "alcohol causes influenza?"
posted by La Cieca at 9:22 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, take this story with a big chunk of salt. Some of it has more than a hint self-servingness

Like the part in the Playboy article where she simply says "I did a total of 16 years in prison," neglecting to mention that she did eight years, was released, and went right back to both dealing, and buying properties and Jaguars (as she says in the Daily Mail piece, "$300 a week feels bad when you remember earning $300,000 a week"). Which resulted in her getting busted again, and having to return to jail.

Or how, miraculously, her drugs just allowed people to have fun in bars on weekends, and didn't cause anyone to get horrendously addicted, or lose their job, or become isolated from their family, or start stealing stuff to support their habit. Or how she didn't want to sell shitty, low-grade meth that was going to make people tweaky and pick at their skin, but she did anyway, because she had to ("we had no choice," "I still needed to sell," "if we ran out of meth, we ran out of money," and then Floyd wouldn't be able to have pretty pretty horsies).
posted by evidenceofabsence at 9:35 AM on July 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


They explicitly and repeatedly lie to us about this stuff

Which actually makes it worse for users. Because my initial experience of it was basically that I had a bunch of fun dancing all night, having great conversations and great sex, and nothing at all like the horror show that you'd expect from those moronic commercials. The negative effects of it are a lot more insidious and subtle and longer term, but you'd never know what to watch out for based on the popular representation of it.

But nobody is going to fund a commercial telling you that it's a hell of a lot of fun, but maybe you should moderate your intake and not hang around with addicts, and possibly think about getting a Ritalin prescription instead of self medicating.
posted by empath at 10:02 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


spilon: So.... we really are reading Playboy for the articles now?
Playboy articles have a 4-decade history of thoughtful reporting, interesting interviews, and fiction by top authors. I know you're joking... but Playboy isn't Penthouse or Hustler; it always aimed to be a more-respectable Esquire, only with nipples.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:16 AM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would love to hear someone weigh in on the pharmacological differences between street methamphetamines and prescription amphetamines. I imagine the drugs operate in somewhat distinct ways, given differences in fat solubility, and the differences between how stereoisomers of amphetamine are processed?

This article discusses how the crystalline structure of street meth enables a far more efficient delivery of the drug, since it's easier to smoke or shoot it. The resulting rapid onset provides a greater potential for addiction, as does the ease of using greater quantities of the drug, as compared with prescription pills.

Apparently in most cases the dopamine receptors recover
I don't know if that's the case. There's some evidence pointing toward very long-term effects. I doubt that changes to dopamine receptors could be attributed to sleep deprivation alone, as some similar changes have been observed with addictive drugs that don't promote sleep deprivation. Also, your analogy might work better if getting the flu was a direct, immediate, and fairly inevitable effect of drinking, as staying awake is with meth.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:36 AM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


One day Josh asked me, “Mama, how come we’re selling bags of tea?” I had to laugh and tell him, “Because everyone seems to love tea.”

So it goes.
posted by obscurator at 10:53 AM on July 17, 2012


So? You haven't presented a reason that meth isn't singularly bad.

You're actually asking me to prove a negative? Don't you think it's more reasonable to insist people prove that it is singularly bad?

As I've said, and as others have said, the reason methamphetamine gets such a bad rap is because it is dirt cheap and so easily available. If cocaine were as cheap and available as crystal, it would be a cocaine epidemic being talked about everywhere. Witness the "crack epidemic" among black communities, for example.

Just looking at meth doesn't turn you into a ravening toothless meth zombie no longer capable of feeling pleasure and willing to rob your grandmother to feed your habit. It isn't an intrinsically evil drug demon sent from hell. It (and close analogues) are prescribed to people, including children, every day. Talking about it like it's going to sneak into your home and murder your children in their sleep just plays into the hands of the anti-drug crusaders who have done more damage to our country (and many other countries) than drugs ever could.

To be clear, meth is the drug I would give the second strongest warning about, exceeded only by heroin because of the intravenous aspect. It's cheap, available, and fun enough that the addictive nature will sneak up on you. That doesn't make it the personification of pure evil in the universe any more than oxycontin is.
posted by Justinian at 11:32 AM on July 17, 2012


The resulting rapid onset provides a greater potential for addiction, as does the ease of using greater quantities of the drug, as compared with prescription pills.

This matches my experience and understanding. The primary difference between street meth and little bobby's adderall is that it is easier to ingest large quantities of meth more quickly (by smoking) than you can with the prescription stuff. And the same dosage of meth will be somewhat stronger than a given dosage of adderall. But it doesn't mean that you can't get just as high with the prescription pills if you have an efficient delivery system.

It'll just cost more and probably be more difficult to obtain, unless you happen to be on a college campus or something where amphetamine abuse (prescription variety) is rampant.
posted by Justinian at 11:35 AM on July 17, 2012


To be clear, meth is the drug I would give the second strongest warning about, exceeded only by heroin because of the intravenous aspect.

Meth is commonly injected; heroin is often smoked or sniffed. I think it used to be a much clearer distinction, but these days people adjust their delivery method based on purity, where they are, the effect they want...
posted by Forktine at 11:36 AM on July 17, 2012


As I've said, and as others have said, the reason methamphetamine gets such a bad rap is because it is dirt cheap and so easily available.

Yeah, but this is the part I don't understand about your position.

Others: Meth is really bad, uniquely so in some ways.

Justinian: Other drugs are just as bad. Meth is only uniquely bad because of the things that are unique to it.

I don't think that the people you were responding to in this thread were saying it was uniquely bad because it had some special demon power. I think they were saying it was uniquely bad because of all the factors that affect its badness, including being cheap and available.

The discussion of how "objectively" bad some drug is are non-sensical, since drug use occurs in the real world.
posted by OmieWise at 11:37 AM on July 17, 2012


But it doesn't mean that you can't get just as high with the prescription pills if you have an efficient delivery system.

I don't think there is an equivalently efficient delivery system, though. As far as I know, the best you can manage with pills is crushing and snorting them. That, in and of itself, takes time. Couple that with the lower dose, the longer onset, and the crappiness associated with inhaling a small mountain of somewhat-gummy pill filler, and I imagine it would get hard to even approach a similar high, even given a bowlful of pills.

I get what you're saying about creating a stigma around a street drug, as opposed to its widely prescribed analogues, but crystal actually does have some unique qualities that increase the potential for addiction.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:57 AM on July 17, 2012


Here's one study (full text/images available at source) showing the difference between how amphetamine and methamphetamine affects the brain (bolded for the parts that matter - would love to see any MeFite neuroscientists, nerobiologists et al weigh on on this):

"The psychostimulants d-amphetamine (AMPH) and methamphetamine (METH) release excess dopamine (DA) into the synaptic clefts of dopaminergic neurons. Abnormal dopamine release is thought to occur by reverse transport through the dopamine transporter (DAT), and it is believed to underlie the severe behavioral effects of these drugs. Here we compare structurally similar amphetamine and methamphetamine on dopamine transporter function in a heterologous expression system and in an animal model. In the in vitro expression system, dopamine transporter-mediated whole-cell currents were greater for methamphetamine stimulation than for amphetamine. At the same voltage and concentration, methamphetamine released five times more dopamine than amphetamine and did so at physiological membrane potentials.

At maximally effective concentrations, methamphetamine released twice as much dopamine from internal stores compared with amphetamine. Dopamine production responses to both drugs were independent of membrane voltage but inhibited by dopamine transmitter antagonists. Intact phosphorylation sites in the N-terminal domain of dopamine transmission were required for the amphetamine- and methamphetamine-induced increase in [dopamine production in the brain] and for the enhanced effects of methamphetamine on [the level of dopamine] elevation. Calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II and protein kinase C inhibitors alone or in combination also blocked amphetamine- or methamphetamine-induced Ca2+ responses. Finally, in the rat nucleus accumbens, in vivo voltammetry showed that systemic application of methamphetamines inhibited dopamine transmitter-mediated dopamine clearance more efficiently than amphetamine, resulting in excess external dopamine. Together these data demonstrate that methamphetamine has a stronger effect on human dopamine transmitter-mediated cell physiology than amphetamine, which may contribute to the euphoric and addictive properties of methamphetamine compared with amphetamine.

Elevated DA (dopamine) in the nucleus accumbens is essential to the development of drug addiction (43), and our in vitro studies paralleled an in vivo measurement of DAT (human dopamine transporter) function in this region of the brain. Our observation that systemic administration of 5 mg/kg methamphetamine resulted in a greater impact on dopamine clearance than amphetamine in the nucleus accumbens of rats (Fig. 5A) provides additional evidence for differences between these two psychostimulants. Interestingly, we did not see these differences in human dopamine transporter clearance in the dorsal striatum."

I realize several posters above mentioned circumventing the time-release mechanism for ADHD/ADD medications (Ritalin, Adderall, etc.) by crushing the pills themselves; while this may or may not work for some prescribed amphetamine salts, it will not work for lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse).

Why? Because "Lisdexamfetamine dimesylate (LDX) is an inactive, water-soluble prodrug in which d-amphetamine is bonded to l-lysine, a naturally occurring amino acid. After oral ingestion, LDX is metabolized into l-lysine and active d-amphetamine."

In other words, you have to eat it in pill form and the stomach's natural digestion process releases the medication into your system. It doesn't work remotely the same way (if at all) if snorted or injected (which are two common methods used for abusing prescription drugs).

So, there are at least two differences between how prescribed amphetamines used to treat ADD/ADHD and street-grade methamphetamines affect the human body based on scientific data; however, I cannot speak to the validity of the methodology of the study I've linked to above.

I'm sure plenty of MeFites have terrible stories about losing people they love to meth - I certainly do - but I'm trying to forget those awful memories and move on with my life.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 12:03 PM on July 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


evidenceofabsence: The question, though, is whether the drug inherently (in a chemical sense) has "unique qualities that increase the potential for addiction" or whether that "increased potential" is more behavioral in nature, e.g., the difference between taking Adderall to treat a diagnosed medical condition and using meth to get high. Obviously, people taking prescribed medication are less likely to perceive that activity as thrill-seeking behavior as someone who just paid a lot of money to a shady dealer for an illegal substance. It's arguable, I think, that the rewarded thrill-seeking in itself is psychologically "addictive" in the same sense that gambling and anonymous sexual encounters are.

Another idea that might be worth considering is that meth use and even a certain level of meth abuse is not inconsistent with functioning at a high level for a fairly long time for many users. In other words, because meth banishes fatigue, focuses concentration and enhances the sense of well-being, some people at least can use chronically for a fairly long time without suffering any apparent ill effects. Meanwhile the dopamine is being systematically sapped and all the other physiological effects of the drug are taking their toll on the body. And of course the regular feeds the psychological addiction.

This I think is a more important message for people considering meth use: the fact is, you may not perceive a downside in using it for a very long time, and your downside may look very different from the sudden death/psychosis/meth mouth model that's generally presented. There are a lot of other, more subtle symptoms that one should be on the lookout for, but at the moment I don't think that information is getting across.
posted by La Cieca at 12:57 PM on July 17, 2012


Yes, absolutely, methamphetamine has a greater effect at a lower dose.

I don't think that the people you were responding to in this thread were saying it was uniquely bad because it had some special demon power.

I dunno, "Meth is pure fucking evil. Like maybe the anthropomorphic personification of all evil in the universe" seems pretty clearly going beyond "methamphetamine is bad because it is cheap and available as well as addictive".
posted by Justinian at 12:59 PM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've done about everything except for PCP and somehow missed out on ecstasy before I got more sane. Meth is an evil motherfucker. It is the high of believing you are right about every fucking thing and the corresponding low that, just as convincingly, lets you know that you are the worst thing known to God and man.

Maybe I got the 'dirty' meth. Maybe, because I was a fucked-up mess, I was more prone to a bad experience. At any rate, I can 100% understand why people would start doing it and not stop it until they are dead.

Regarding the article: Nthing her lack of display of remorse for some people who were most likely severely fucked and she was in the line of causation. Also, I'd heard Tom Arnold was a shit, and the fact that he suggests riffing on her experience as part as a comedy riff along with the idea (ironic it may be) that she jump-started the economy of rural Iowa or something, maintains my impression of him as a brown stain.
posted by angrycat at 1:26 PM on July 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, I'd heard Tom Arnold was a shit, and the fact that he suggests riffing on her experience as part as a comedy riff along with the idea (ironic it may be) that she jump-started the economy of rural Iowa or something, maintains my impression of him as a brown stain.

My understanding is that Tom Arnold was a drug using shit, but got himself clean some years ago, and stayed clean. Ever since then, he has been traveling around, doing the same Stand-Up Gig that he has done since being clean; "Drugs are bad Mkay..."
Long story short, it was a jest made out of sarcasm, about how the economy is so bad.... Tom Arnold is a SHIT, but not for the reasons you think.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 5:51 PM on July 17, 2012


I'm pretty sure Tom Arnold is broke, and is probably hoping to facilitate a movie deal for his dear old sister.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:10 PM on July 17, 2012


La Cieca, my comment was intended to focus on why meth isn't, in a chemical sense, analogous to prescription amphetamines, even when both are being used "recreationally," because meth has some unique properties.

That is a good point, though. Addiction can and does sneak up on a body, and I'm sure there are plenty of people who use regularly, but are not strung-out, Faces-of-Meth types.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 7:13 PM on July 17, 2012


I once dated a girl from Ottumwa, Iowa. She told me that Tom Arnolds' parents give out king-size Snickers bars on Halloween.

That's all I have to add here; sorry it's not more substantial.
posted by compartment at 8:15 PM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is the high of believing you are right about every fucking thing and the corresponding low that, just as convincingly, lets you know that you are the worst thing known to God and man.


SPOILER ALERT for major theme/character arc for Walt in Season 5 of Breaking Bad
posted by Bwithh at 8:31 PM on July 17, 2012


evidenceofabsence:

meth isn't, in a chemical sense, analogous to prescription amphetamines

I see that point, and I certainly can see the connection between the stronger euphoric effect associated with meth and a higher risk of addiction. In fact, it seems pretty clear that certain details of the formulation and manufacture of prescription amphetamines only make sense as roadblocks to recreational use: basically the big idea is to block the user's access to the pure chemical form of the drug through various buffers and additives, and thus to prevent the euphoric high the the recreational user is seeking.

I'm sure there are plenty of people who use regularly, but are not strung-out, Faces-of-Meth types

But of course they're under the radar because they are generally high-functioning. Plus the existence of "successful" recreational meth users puts a major ding in the "anthropomorphic personification of all evil in the universe" narrative.
posted by La Cieca at 7:37 AM on July 18, 2012


the big idea is to block the user's access to the pure chemical form of the drug

Yes, but it's not just one drug. That's kind of my point. Ritalin and Adderall are different drugs, with unique chemical qualities.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 9:50 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


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