The Herald Bulletin

February 24, 2014

Scott Underwood: Special report illuminates meth problem in Madison County

The Herald Bulletin

---- — Cheap and easy to make, methamphetamine locks users in a poverty of the body, mind and soul. In many cases, only the intervention of law enforcement can break the drug’s stranglehold.

The second day of our series, “Meth: The Menace of Madison County,” is published today. Part III will be published Tuesday. The first part of the series, which appeared Sunday, along with accompanying videos and photos, can be found at

Over the past few years, the meth scourge has been as bad here as anywhere else in the country. So we decided several weeks ago to take an in-depth look at the problem.

Our project team includes reporter Jack Molitor, Associate Editor Scott Miley, Content Editor Heather Bremer, page designer Allison Vondrell, photographers John Cleary and Don Knight, and Digital Editor Andy Knight.

Jack, whose beat is public safety (cops, courts and fire), talked to dozens of sources, including police officers, elected officials and health care experts. But his most important interviews were with former meth users.

These recovering addicts could describe in graphic detail the forces that led them to meth, the horror of addiction and the struggle to break free. None would have reached this last stage if law enforcement had not intervened.

The former meth users Jack talked to described the psychological impact of the drug, the culture of meth and how users work together to procure ingredients to cook meth.

As I read their accounts, I kept thinking: Misery loves company.

With Scott Miley’s guidance and editing touch, Jack blended anecdotes to relate the dark experience of using and cooking meth with statistics that illustrate just how profound the problem is in Madison County.

Jack also did an excellent job of characterizing the cost of the meth problem, the danger to neighbors of explosive meth labs and the insidious impact of the drug on children. Kids living in homes where meth is made often suffer brain and lung damage, and are at high risk of physical abuse and sexual molestation.

Heather’s three full-page graphics cite statistics to illuminate the impact of meth in Madison County and across Indiana, while telling the history of methamphetamine and its effects on the body and mind.

Don and John’s photos portray the former meth users as real people who have come through hell to look ahead with renewed hope to the future. Andy’s videos give voice to the former users and to local authorities.

Lastly, Allison created a newsy design for the series that matches the seriousness of the subject matter. Good page design is essential to draw the reader’s attention.

One other thought about our special report: Some readers might feel that we have glorified meth use by bringing it into the full light of day. But the truth is, anyone who reads this series could not possibly see meth use as anything but horrifying.

Editor Scott Underwood’s column appears Mondays.

Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @THBeditor. Contact him at or 640-4845.