A harrowing study of methamphetamine.
According to Newsweek, more than 1.5 million Americans regularly use methamphetamine, aka crystal meth. Many associate the drug solely with the underground rave scene, but over the past decade, it’s infiltrated all walks of life: Seemingly typical housewives use it, hardworking Midwesterners use it, conservative survivalists use it. Veteran journalist and U.K. expat Owen (Clubland, 2003) knows this world; the intro has him snorting meth with an art critic in “a rat-infested tenement on New York’s Lower East Side” in 1988, and he admits to having developed a severe habit, though he was eventually able to give it up. His background gives the book an immediacy that is at once compelling and unsettling. He attacks the story from every angle, interviewing a creepy underground chemist who goes by the handle “Uncle Fester,” watchdogging D.E.A. muckity-muck Gene Haislip and profiling Mexican meth czar José de Jesús Amezcua-Contreras. The most disturbing chapter, though, is the final one. “Mother’s Little Helper” documents the story of meth-maker Charlotte Sanders and her daughter Ashley, who at age 11 tested positive for the drug due to daily exposure to her parents’ basement methamphetamine lab.
Disturbing, haunting, memorable and at times morbidly funny. What’s most unfortunate is that the people who should be reading this book probably won’t.