Lori Arnold is a 61 year old material technician in Ohio, but thirty years ago she was the leader of a national drug ring, earning herself the title, ‘Queen of Meth’.  

When Lori was just 14 years old, she tried speed for the first time with her mom. Lori’s mother was already familiar with the drug, but introduced it to Lori on a night when she needed an extra hand with some housework. Her mom believed it would help Lori complete the job faster, and she was right. Under the influence of amphetamines, Lori felt more energy than she ever had before. Lori also noticed that the drug seemed to make her loneliness disappear.

Pre ‘Queen of Meth’ Lori Arnold

Lori was born in Ottumwa, Iowa, as one of seven stepchildren and half-siblings. Despite living in a small, poor town, one of these siblings– her brother, Tom– turned out to be a famous comedian and actor. Her mother married six times after leaving home when Lori was only three years old and her father eventually ended up with their next-door neighbor. Lori describes her home life as being broken and poor.

Even after leaving, her mother would often show up unannounced, “acting crazy” due to heavy drug use. Despite her dad working hard and caring for her and her many siblings basically on his own, Lori’s family didn’t have much money or security to offer her, leaving her longing for the promise of something more. 

At age 14 Lori was married off to a 23 year old man after her dad gave him the ultimatum of marrying her, leaving her, or going to jail for statutory rape. Shortly after Lori married him, he began physically abusing her, and eventually cheated on her with another child; a 12 year old this time. 

After this news, Lori remarried, this time to a man in a biker gang. It was during this relationship that Lori really started using and then dealing meth. Lori’s drug use can be attributed to her home life and the way in which she grew up. The same can be said of her drug dealing. She was introduced to drugs by both her mother and her adult husbands when she was only a child. 

The Dangers of Drug Use in Childhood

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, studies have shown that drug abuse in late childhood as well as in early adolescence is associated with greater drug involvement later in life. Not only was Lori exposed to using drugs at a very young age, she was also genetically predisposed to be vulnerable to substance abuse given her family’s history. Her mother was severely addicted to drugs and often used them around Lori, behaving erratically around her as a result. 

From an early age, Lori made the connection between methamphetamines and happiness. Unlike many drug dealers, Lori got into the business in an attempt to help other members of her impoverished community feel something other than the pain and loneliness that is often present in small towns in the United States.

Rise of Meth Use in the U.S.

Lori was a victim of methamphetamines and substance use disorder, herself. When she began selling meth, it was a relatively new recreational substance– one that she never intended to get people addicted to, especially since the first people she gave meth to were her close friends. She was oblivious to the dangers of meth as well as to how addictive of a substance it is. Lori simply wanted to share her experience using meth with her friends, because up until that part it had been nothing but a nice escape from the suffering of her reality, as a child bride and victim of domestic violence in a rural, poor town. 

By the time it was too late, Lori began to understand the gravity of her situation, as well as the realities of meth and what it had done to her community. At the height of her career, Lori was moving up to ten pounds of meth at a time out of her small, Iowa hometown. It was here that she earned the nickname, ‘Queen of Meth’, as many believed she “pioneered” modern drug trafficking meth across states.

At this point in time Lori self reportedly was making up to $200,000 a week in the drug trade. She was the head of a drug ring that moved meth all across the west coast, primarily between Iowa and California to begin with, but eventually branching out across the country. 

The business was so large that Lori inevitably got caught up with a Mexican drug cartel. With her exponentially growing budget, she bought a 170-acre horse ranch in which most of her product was made to be distributed, along with multiple cars, a bar in town, a car lot, homes and real estate, and even a private plane. 

‘Queen of Meth’ Loses Her Throne

Despite the large amount of money Lori was earning, she was always known to be extremely generous with her money, sharing her wealth with friends and family and investing in her community, hoping to make her small home town a better place to live. Many residents of Ottumwa described Lori as a Robin Hood-like character with her generosity.

Sadly, while Lori tried to be a benefactor, she recognizes now the devastating effect her drug dealing had on her community. She ran her drug ring for six years before she was caught. It was then that she began to understand the gravity of how meth had ruined her community. 

In 1989, Lori Arnold was arrested after undercover agents watched her sell 350 pounds of meth at a value of $11 million. Her brother, who at this point was already successful and earning money and status as a famous actor, tried to help her after her arrest by offering $400,000 in cash to bail her out; however, the bail option was removed.

Lori served time in federal prison in West Virginia, where she said she “learned that I didn’t need drugs for my personality, or to get along with people or to motivate or be energized.”  Unfortunately, though, after her release from prison in 1999, Arnold got into trouble again. She started dealing meth once again until she was caught less than two years later. 

In Conclusion

Despite using and selling meth for the majority of her life, Lori Arnold was able to turn things around for herself after she was released from her second sentence in prison. During her second prison term, Lori was able to move to a prison in Greenville, Illinois, where she would attend a 90 day rehab. This program taught Lori the reason she got involved with drugs in the first place and her reason for returning to them again and again. She recalled the most valuable lesson she learned in rehab was to think about the consequences of her actions before doing so. 

Today, Lori is doing just fine. She now lives in Arizona with her fiancé after living in Sandusky, Ohio, for six months in a halfway house. Lori is still sober. Although she spends her days living quite a different life, now, her title of ‘Queen of Meth’ is one she cannot shake, especially after the arrival of Queen of Meth, the television show.

Are You Struggling with Substance Abuse?

The three-part docuseries, Queen of Meth, is currently available on Discovery +, tells the story of Lori’s journey from dealer to addict to redemption. The series is available to stream today. Fortunately, help is available for those battling addiction and/or mental health issues. Knoxville Recovery Center offers various services to those struggling in any stage of addiction or mental illness. 

Services offered: 

Detox – Our on-site detox clinic accommodates and supports clients as the body sheds all residual traces of addictive substances. Clients are under medical supervision during the detox process to ensure that they remain safe and comfortable. 

Addiction Treatment  During our addiction treatment program, clients will engage in introductory therapies and exercises that work to prepare them for continued, more intensive treatment outside of our facility. The goal of our addiction treatment track is to stabilize clients so that they are treatment-ready. 

Mental Health Treatment – Our mental health treatment program introduces behavioral therapies rooted in self-expression and holistic exercise. Art therapy, music therapy, and yoga are just a few forms of therapy we offer at the center. Our goal is to help the client reclaim their voice and expose them to treatment within a professional facility. 

Aftercare Planning – Aftercare is designed for individuals who have benefitted from our introductory addiction services and are transitioning into a more intensive addiction treatment program. Once a client is stabilized, they will be encouraged to pursue continued addiction treatment. Our experienced case managers will then work with our clients to place them in a program that addresses their specific wants and needs.

If you feel that you or a loved one is struggling and needs help, our specialists are on standby and ready to help. Call Knoxville Recovery Center and speak with an expert today.

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