For the last four years, KSU sociology professor Miriam Boeri has conducted a number
(Jun 10, 2010) — For the last four years, KSU sociology professor Miriam Boeri has conducted a number
of studies on meth use and meth users. Some of her research is funded by the National
Institute of Drug Abuse. Her first meth research grant was a two-year, $181,000 grant,
followed by a second, two-year grant totaling $367,000. She recently received a stimulus
grant to research older drug users. Read more about her research.
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The Bigger Question
Study of suburban methamphetamine abuse results in few answers
The “after pictures” are generally the same.
Sad, haunted, empty eyes; open sores on their faces; tooth decay and eventual loss.
These are the images that come to mind when methamphetamine use is talked about by
law enforcement or shown on television.
But the reality is very different, according to KSU sociology professor Miriam Boeri.
There is the beautiful young girl who wants to stay skinny, alert and energetic; the
struggling single mother balancing the demands of work and home; and the working-class
man who earns his living doing hard labor. These are also the faces of meth.
“There’s no one type of meth user,” Boeri said. “The typical meth user looks like
your next-door neighbor.”
For the last four years, Boeri has conducted a number of studies on meth use and meth
users. She and her research assistants go out on the streets, and into bars and drug
houses to interview users to learn their perspective on drug use. “We have been fighting
a war on drugs for 40 years, and we are not winning,” she said. “If anything, it’s
gotten worse and worse, especially with methamphetamine.”
Some of Boeri’s research is funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, a subsidiary
of the National Institutes of Health. Her first meth research grant was a two-year,
$180,900 grant, followed by a second, two-year grant totaling $367,000. She also recently
received a $201,000 stimulus grant to research older drug users.
“We as a society recognize drug abuse as a health problem as shown by the source of
my funding – the National Institutes of Health,” Boeri said. “A lot of the money we
use keeping drug users in prison could be used for treatment. Treatment is cheaper
than jail, where we have to give them health care anyway, so why not give them treatment
– good treatment instead? A lot of these people aren’t criminals, they’re just drug
In her first study, Boeri sampled 35 women and 65 men, 18 and older, to study meth
use in the suburbs. While drug abuse is typically associated with urban environments,
meth is the drug of choice among suburbanites, Boeri said.
“Meth use is much more prevalent in the suburbs, than in the city,” she said. “In
this area, it’s a white person’s drug typically.”
The difference between a suburban user and an urban drug user is a matter of community
resources, Boeri added.
“There are different kinds of blighted areas in the suburbs,” she said. “Users out
here don’t have access to the kind of resources available in the city, such as health
clinics with staff who are trained in drug use issues. Suburban users need help, too.
We shouldn’t wait until they hit rock bottom and say, ‘go to treatment for three months,’
and think that’s going to solve the problem. It’s not.”
As part of her grant requirements, Boeri posts her findings on an open source Web
site, PubMed, so the information can be shared and used by other researchers. She
also publishes her research findings in peer-reviewed articles and gives professional
presentations. This spring she traveled to Liverpool, England to give a presentation
on her findings.
As Boeri continues to compile and disseminate statistical data about meth users, there
are larger questions that dog her: Why are there so many drug users; and what’s wrong
with society that addicts feel they have to use?
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