Chris Rice is a dentist at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, School of Dentistry. He works at the heart of the new rural Midwestern U.S. methamphetamine epidemic.
"Their teeth are rotted to the gum line and-or broken off."
The smoking of methamphetamine can cause this rapid tooth decay.
"In rural areas we are seeing more of it than we are here in the city," said Dr. Rice
Jason Grellner works narcotics enforcement with the Franklin County Sheriff Department near St. Louis, Missouri. It was in the early ‘90s that Missouri's central location and interstate highway system first brought criminal groups that spread methamphetamine.
"You have vast areas where people can get out into rural areas and manufacture this product," Sergeant Grellner told us.
Methamphetamine is easy to make using commercial materials. The main ingredient is pseudo ephedrine, which comes in common over-the-counter cold medications. The easy access to these cold medications has made some states put restrictions on their in-store sales.
"Just as easy as cooking chocolate chip cookies, you can cook or make methamphetamine," said the officer.
Sargent Grellner has years of experience with meth addicts and suggests some root causes.
"They have a problem with self esteem, they just end up walking out of their lives. They walk away from family, they walk away from their homes, they walk away from any good job that they had and begin to live this narcotics-driven life.”
The powerful addiction of meth nearly destroyed the life of Mark Hyndrich and his family. Mark was cooking meth in a barn and living with his addicted wife and two children.
"I was one of the best lying, cheating, thieving low-lifes that ever walked a highway. I was one of the worst,” Mark admitted. “There's a real life out there, if you are screwed up on this stuff you need to get away from it and get a grip on life."
Methamphetamine addiction can have a serious effect on family members of the users. Children's social service agencies in the Midwest report an increase in kids needing to be removed from homes with meth-using parents.
Mary Terry works with these children.
"A lot of this depends on the resiliency of the child,” she said. ”We see things like post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder, sometimes depression, all of those types of disorders because it is the most traumatic thing that can happen to a child."
Methamphetamine seems to be bringing all the horrors of big city drug problems to the center of rural America.