“We’s lost all the bases of civilized culture around here.”

tenorBooks on Tap read Methland  by Nick Reding at  Champion Brewery on June 1. While most of us  had watched Breaking Bad, we were not ready for the bleakness of meth addiction reported by Reding. He uses the town of Oelwein, Iowa as the lens while describing how and why meth became such an attractive drug to white working class people in the Midwest. Reding weaves together Big Agriculture, immigration policy, deregulation, and the need to work long hours at physically demanding factory jobs to explain why a stimulant would spread like wildfire. The reporting on the macro level was interesting, but the personal stories of Oelwein residents are what propel this book. The gruesome recountings of meth lab explosions, Tom Arnold’s sister’s rise as an international drug-dealer and the sincere work of the local doctor in mayor to revitalize the town are what draws in readers. Stories of deep addiction are stressful to read, but Reding spends a lot of time with those in Oelwien who are either in recovery or trying to diversify the economy. There is a certain entrepreneurial logic for those dealing meth. The nearest large city is 200 miles away, so cooking meth is one of the only ways to make a living wage without moving.

We discussed ways in which the US could combat the meth epidemic, from drug courts (in Virginia, treatment isn’t mandated) to living wage legislation to affordable health insurance that covers drug treatment to legalization similar to Portugal’s. Some of us found this book hard to read because for years the meth epidemic was hidden in the supposedly safe “fly over” states and that we on the coasts have a limited sense of life in Middle America.

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Recent  New Yorker article on opioid addiction in West Virginia
Father/Son memoirs about meth addiction and recovery
Drug-related HIV spike in Indiana

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Apps for Mental Health

One of the major themes of our Big Read selection, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, is mental health – mental illness and addiction included. In keeping with programming addressing these topics this month, we thought some apps to keep you mentally on track might be helpful. Apps listed below are available for free from Android and Apple app stores.

breatheBreathe2Relax – This app works to relieve stress, manage anxiety, stabilize mood, and control anger with deep breathing exercises. While this type of breathing, called “diaphragmatic breathing”, is generally included in meditation and yoga practices, the exercises in this app are solely breathing focused.

cassavaCassava – This is an addiction recovery assistance app. It helps you locate self-help support and 12-step meetings near you, save meeting locations you have attended and enjoyed, journal, assess your daily moods and activities, and track your progress.

mindshiftMindShift – This app helps you tackle anxiety in any form, from performance or social anxiety to worry and panic. It acts as a portable coach to help you face and work through anxiety rather than avoid it. It has assessments to see how you’re feeling or what type of situation you’re in and provides thinking, relaxation, and action tools so you can move forward.

pacificaPacifica – For anyone struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mood related issues. This app allows you to track your moods over time and connect them to activities or possible triggers like sleep, exercise, time outside, or alcohol intake. It also has helpful activities built into the app that focus on relaxation, goal setting, and positive thinking.

Apps are not intended to be substitutions for appropriate medical treatment of mental health conditions. If you need immediate help, or would like more information on finding treatment please head to MentalHealth.gov.