The Methamphetamine Industry in America: Transnational Cartels and Local Entrepreneurs

The Methamphetamine Industry in America: Transnational Cartels and Local Entrepreneurs

The Methamphetamine Industry in America: Transnational Cartels and Local Entrepreneurs

The Methamphetamine Industry in America: Transnational Cartels and Local Entrepreneurs


Galax, a small Virginia town at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, was one of the first places that Henry H. Brownstein, Timothy M. Mulcahy, and Johannes Huessy visited for their study of the social dynamics of methamphetamine markets--and what they found changed everything. They had begun by thinking of methamphetamine markets as primarily small-scale mom-and-pop businesses operated by individual cooks who served local users--generally stymied by ever more strenuous laws. But what they found was a thriving and complex transnational industry. And this reality was repeated in towns and cities across America, where the methamphetamine market was creating jobs and serving as a focus for daily lives and social experience.

The Methamphetamine Industry in America describes the reality that the methamphetamine industry is a social phenomenon connecting local, national, and international communities and markets. The book details the results of a groundbreaking three-stage study, part of a joint initiative of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Justice, in which police agencies across the United States were surveyed and their responses used to identify likely areas of study. The authors then visited these areas to observe and interview local participants, from users and dealers to law enforcement officers and clinical treatment workers.

Through the eyes and words of these participants, the book tells the story of the evolution of methamphetamine markets in the United States over the past several years, given changes in public policies and practices and changing public opinion about methamphetamine. The authors look closely at how the markets are part of a larger industry, how they are socially organized, and how they operate. They also consider the relationships among the people involved and those around them, and the national, regional, and local culture of the markets. Their work demonstrates the importance of understanding the business of methamphetamine--and by extension other drugs in society--through a lens that focuses on social behavior, social relationships, and the cultural elements that shape the organization and operation of this illicit but effective industry.


This book tells the story of how the illicit methamphetamine industry in America survived and even thrived despite efforts to control it by legislation and law enforcement. It is based on a study of methamphetamine markets all across the United States and tells the story of those markets from the perspective and in the words of people whose lives have been personally linked to these markets in one way or another. In addition it draws on our years of combined experience studying illicit drugs, drug users, and drug markets.

For four years from 2007 to 2011 we studied methamphetamine markets with funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA, R21DA024391). Our study was part of a research initiative supported by NIDA and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). We conducted a mixed methods, three-stage study starting with an exploratory screening survey of 1,367 police agencies across the country, followed by open-ended and in-depth telephone interviews with fifty narcotics police in departments around the country, and finally site visits for observations and personal interviews in and around almost thirty cities and towns in five regions of the country. We concluded that the methamphetamine industry in America is strong and adaptable and in the twenty-first century is not only surviving but thriving. This does not diminish our observation while visiting communities with active methamphetamine markets that while business is good its impact on public health and public safety is not. Notably, we found that while federal and state legislation designed to address meth-related problems initially did inconvenience the markets and marketers of meth, it also had unintended outcomes including the revitalization and reorganization of what was previously a more localized yet fragmented industry.

This book provides a broad perspective through which we present the story of what we learned about methamphetamine as an industry. However . . .

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