Jacob Erickson

An Iowa State University study looks at why those who cook meth not only consider it a crime but also — a lucrative job.

Lead author Jacob Erickson, in the ISU sociology department, says researchers did extensive interviews with more than 30 meth cooks, most of them in halfway houses or assisted living facilities. Erickson says the goal was to learn about meth cooks’ motivations — to help with prevention and rehabilitation efforts.

“Many of them initially suggested that being able to produce meth and getting money from selling that meth was a reward in its own right,” Erickson says. “The meth cooks also really enjoyed what we refer to as intangible rewards, things like increased social status among their peers, as you might guess.”

Erickson says the study offers insight into the world of meth production and an understanding of why cooks chose this lifestyle.
“Some of them really developed a level of pride, viewing the way they cook meth as being superior to the way other people cook meth, viewing proper measurements or the use of glass tools versus plastic tools,” Erickson says. “Various things that to you or I might seem inconsequential or nonsensical, but to them, in their minds, were very important.”

Many of those questioned had held legitimate jobs but said the lifestyle and mental effects of the drug made it difficult to stay employed. Some admitted making serious mistakes on the job, including car crashes and injuring co-workers. Erickson says cooking meth takes a critical toll on every aspect of a person’s life.

“Socially, economically, biophysically, obviously using meth is very hard on them physically, being when they’re cooking meth they’re around noxious chemicals and gases,” Erickson says. “Socially, it breaks down and erodes family connections. Oftentimes, many of them lose their ability to maintain steady employment.”

Researchers say many of the former meth cooks were from low-income backgrounds with limited educations, which may have influenced their decision to start using meth.

The ISU report is published in the Justice Quarterly journal.

(By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)