Rural meth crisis lurks close to home

A new book is bringing attention to methamphetamines in rural America — and the problem may be closer than you expected.

Shadow People: How Meth-driven Crime is Eating at the Heart of Rural America,” by Scott Thomas Anderson, describes meth problems in Nebraska, Iowa, Montana, Georgia  — as well as Contra Costa County and Bethel Island here in the Bay Area.

Bethel Island is known to many as a relaxed river community with bait shops and wide-open spaces. Some may deride it as “Methel Island,” though, when tales of breaking and entering or suspicious fires make it to news sites.

Burglary — a common way of obtaining meth supplies — is steadily on the rise on the island, though Anderson found many locals are unaware a problem exists.

Tracking down meth suppliers can be difficult for police because manufacturing meth does not require as much space as the processing of other drugs like cocaine, heroin or marijuana. In fact, meth can easily be created in a car while you drive, or in a purse while you walk around.

These portable meth labs known as “shake and bakes” require only meager supplies and a plastic bottle. They’re also dangerously flammable, putting anyone in the vicinity at risk.

Anderson’s Kickstarter-funded book tells several tales from the East Bay, including one woman who was brutally beaten by a group of acquaintances at the Bethel Island Marina, but didn’t seek help because they were all addicts.

Anderson told the CoCoTimes the woman kept on using meth after the incident:

“… that didn’t stop her from using meth after that. She wasn’t proud. She was embarrassed about it and honest about how it ruined her life. It’s a great example of how the meth problem is undeniable.”

Anderson will be holding a book signing and talk about the effects of meth in communities at the Lodi Public Library on July 1 from 1:30 to 3 p.m.