Opinion: The true story of meth in Montana

April 25, 2021

Montana is 1,200 miles from our southern border, yet the effects of the border crisis ripple across our state. In late March, many of our U.S. senators visited the southern border. Unfortunately, serious dialogue about meth entering our country became the brunt of political banter on social media and national headlines. It saddens us that many misinterpreted and misrepresented factual comments were made and distracted from the much larger issue. We cannot let that be the end of the story in the fight against meth.

Meth is one of the most addictive, most available and, in some areas, least expensive drug in our country. Meth doesn’t discriminate against your political party, color, religious beliefs, age, sexual orientation or identified gender. One hit leaves a trail of human suffering — addiction, crime, death — where people, families and communities are changed forever.

Graham Macker is someone I knew personally. He spent his short lifetime battling meth addiction. I met Graham in my role with the Montana Meth Project, our state’s only organization solely dedicated to meth prevention. HBO was filming “Montana Meth,” a documentary produced by our founder, Tom Siebel, that featured Graham’s story of addiction — a straight-A student who had abandoned the classroom in pursuit of the euphoric rush of meth. We watched as Graham’s relationship with meth took center stage in his life at the cost to his family, school, sports and social life. At this same time, the physical changes in Graham could not be overlooked. He lost a significant amount of weight and muscle mass, and sores speckled his face. He had little contact with his family unless he needed to be bailed out or retrieved from the E.R. At a sobering moment in the film, his mother, Wendy Macker, asks in tears, “How does it end?”

A few years later Graham was the subject of a CBS Evening News’ story. Hair blowing in the wind under our striking Montana sky, Graham played with his dog. He told national correspondent, Ben Tracy, that he was clean after a four-year battle with meth addiction.

Three years later, Wendy had the answer to her question. Graham was found dead in the Missouri River. He had walked away from the pre-release center he was sent to after violating probation on charges of forgery and writing bad checks, during a relapse back into the dark world of meth. Fleeing Homeland Security helicopters and dogs, he escaped into the icy waters — his body was discovered months later in a February ice jam.

Graham’s family carries the anguish of his loss every day. We all do.

This is the story of meth in Montana, and there are countless more: the young rancher who can’t kick his addiction and commits suicide during COVID, the grandmother who beats her grandbabies as she hallucinates, the girl forced into sex trafficking under meth-induced control, the toddler abandoned and entered into foster care after his mom leaves to find her dealer and is arrested.

As you read headlines about meth smuggled in across the border, meth seizures and crimes committed by addicts, remember the stories of human life destroyed and support your leaders to act.

We support all those who are in the fight against meth. It will take all of us in the private and public sectors to remove the drug from our states and the clutches of users. We must stop the drug cartels. We must stay vigilant in educating all populations about the devastating risks of drug use. We must be united. Banter aside, sleeves rolled up and heads together.

Meth. Not even once.

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