In the Face of Meth


John, a twenty-year-old Northern Cheyenne, was raised on the reservation most of his life. During the time of this story he had been using methamphetamines for about two years.

John was good friend of mine. I had known him a year before he was really into crank. We would visit at his house in a community on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation for hours.

He would often tell me his hopes for the future. Wed discuss going to college and getting good paying jobs. His main goals were getting a car, a job and a nice stereo system for his two-bedroom apartment.

Johns apartment was fairly decent compared to other apartments in his neighborhood. I always felt his apartment was very comfortable. It was a place I would visit when I wanted to relax.

Also, John was one of those people I looked forward to seeing and being around. He would always tell crazy stories to make me laugh and when I needed someone to listen, he was there.

He would often lecture me about graduating from high school and moving on to college. Meanwhile, he said he was going to get his life together and do something for his tribe.


Crank Changes Everything


It had been quite a few months since Id had a visit with John. I decided it was time to stop by. However, I was completely unprepared for what I was about to see.

I knocked on his door. He gripped the gun at his side and peered out the window. After seeing that it was I, he unlocked the door, stood back, and shouted for me to enter.

John had been using meth for several days. He sat in his empty house with the curtains drawn closed, trying to fix the stereo he had taken apart the night before. He was paranoid and jumped whenever he heard a car drive by.

The paranoid behavior depicted here is often referred to as amphetamine psychosis. Research suggests that methamphetamine or crank use is closely related to violence and crimes. All across the nation there are increasing reports of drug-related violent crimes peaking around the first of the month, which is a standard pay date.

This research corresponds to the situation on the Northern Cheyenne reservation. According to a BIA official, law enforcement is noticing a rise in crime during the beginning of the month (payday). The crimes most noticed are burglary and assault.

According to research, there are several common factors that relate meth use to violence:

         Chronic use of high dosages of methamphetamine (about a gram a day). Imagine one of those small sugar packets. Contained in that small package is one gram of sugar.

         Using either alone or in groups. A person who has been using by him/herself may become extremely paranoid toward other people and react to them in a violent manner. On the other hand, group users have tendencies to quarrel with each other or become paranoid and plot acts of violence against each other or against others.

         Paranoid suspicions, impulsive behavior, delusional thoughts, and disorganized thinking (due to sleep deprivation). John takes his stereo apart which is an example of disorganized thinking and impulsive behavior.

         Carrying weapons, armed robbery, and conflicts (caused by bad drug deals, suspiciousness, paranoia, and attempts to support drug habit).

I noticed the empty beer bottles scattered about. On the floor were the wires and buttons of a once working stereo, "rigs" (needle-syringes) used for "shooting up" (injecting a form of liquid meth into the bloodstream), and a bulb (used to smoke methamphetamines) on the kitchen table.

We sat down at the table. His dilated eyes darted back and forth as he told me about a shooting the night before. Apparently, someone was shot over drugs; however, it was a minor injury so it went unreported (luckily, it wasn't fatal).

After some small talk, he asked me to go with him up the street. As we were getting ready, he pulled out his gun, and jokingly, pointed it in my direction to get my attention. He then hid it in his jacket, and said that it was in case any one tried to mess with him. At the time I just believed he was paranoid, and believed that he probably wouldn't use it, except maybe for show.

We came to a house, and he had me knock on the door. A young man came outside, talked a little with John, and they exchanged money and drugs. As we walked back to John's house, he seemed eager to see the quality of his drugs. Realizing, a little too late, that I needed to head out, I said my goodbyes.

Researcher Paul Goldstein divides drug-related violence into three conceptual types: systemic violence of drug-dealing organizations, economic-compulsive violence (ECV), and psychopharmacological violence (PCV). ECV refers to the violence resulting from drug deals, such as securing money and inspection of quality of drugs. PCV is the violence caused by the psychological action of drugs, such as paranoia, irritability, aggression, and excitability.

The last time I saw John he looked sick. His eyes were black and sunken in, he looked like he lost about 20 pounds; he was pale, but most noticeable was the red "rash" that was spread all over his body. He had used crank on and off for the last two months and was crashing. Unfortunately, he continues to abuse his body with meth, but maybe some day he'll be able to turn his life around.

*This story is based on a real person and on real events; only the name has been changed.

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