Sterling Braswell has written a fascinating book on drug use in America. Start with the history of amphetamines. It has been used for almost 100 years. Methamphetamine was used in the 1920s to treat asthma, hay fever, and depression. At the time it was legal and carried no social stigma. Amphetamines were used in the military because they were believed to enhance intellectual performance and incite aggression.

Hitler was injected with it. Kamikaze pilots were injected before embarking on their suicide missions. JFK used it in combination with steroids to treat Addison’s disease. He was attributed to contributing to his abnormally high sex drive. Today, methamphetamine users come from all walks of life: students, soldiers, workers, housewives.

The harm caused by methamphetamine use is insidious. Dopamine nerve endings are damaged to the point that they put people at risk of developing Parkinson’s as they age. Some of the damage is permanent and some can last up to three years after use ends. Methamphetamine use triggers apoptosis leading to widespread cell death in various areas of the brain. The brain is affected in a similar way to the damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease and strokes. The abuser’s personality is also affected. They become paranoid, delusional, and violent. Braswell refers to the reality of it as “Crazy Town”. This becomes the world of the user.

In this book, Braswell also includes his own personal story of the hell he went through while married to Lucille, an addict. Lucille was unable to overcome her addiction, and as a result of her meth addiction actions, she nearly destroyed Braswell. As I read his personal story, I kept hoping that his lives would get better and that Lucille would be able to overcome his addictions. Instead, she betrayed him and his family in every possible way.

The history of methamphetamine and other related drugs is covered in great depth. “American Meth” would be very helpful for substance abuse counselors and people in recovery. For my Master’s program in Rehabilitation Counseling, I didn’t have any text that covered history so deeply.

I think it’s important that people who believe drugs should be legalized read “American Meth.” Crime is not only committed by people trying to get money for a fix, horrible crimes are committed by people who are under the influence of this drug. Families are destroyed.

American Methamphetamine: A History of America’s Methamphetamine Epidemic

Sterling R Braswell

iUniverse, Inc. (2006)

ISBN 0595380212

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (5/06)

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