Meth is terrifying. Everybody knows that. Even professional drug enthusiasts cross themselves and spit on the ground at the mention of its name, for it is unclean. So we donned our anti-meth contamination suits, got ourselves blessed by five priests of opposing faiths, and only then dared to speak to two former meth addicts, Oscar Kindling and Jessica Fish, from the relative safety of our offices across the country. Shocker -- we discovered that meth sucks! But much like heroin, it might not suck in the exact shape and form that has been described to you by pop culture.
#5. Most Meth Addicts Don't Look Like Meth Addicts
Somewhere along the line, we decided that the true weakness of a drug fiend is their boundless vanity, and the best way to convince them to stop is to remind them that drugs will make them less attractive. That's why we have an entire campaign called "Faces of Meth." And those faces look exactly like you expect: malnourished, scrawny, just wasting away ...
Also with terrible dye jobs, for some reason.
But meth addicts turning into a pubescent Skeletor is not a universal constant. Like every drug, meth affects each user differently.
"I actually gained weight," said Oscar. "It's a lot more invisible than people think ... I work in mental health, and users will say, 'You don't know, you've never used drugs.' People just don't expect it from me." Meth addicts aren't all homeless copper-hungry zombies. Most hold down jobs and (aside from the drug use) aren't criminals of any sort. Statistics suggest that if you work in an organization with 100 people, two or three are meth users. It may even be your boss -- it'd explain how they muster up so much pep on those team-building exercises.
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"Alright, guys, team-building scavenger hunt! First item: a box of Sudafed from every drug store in town!"
The fact that the average meth addict looks nothing like the stereotype is why the drug is able to get its hooks in so deep. It's not hard to find online forums full of working mothers using the drug to give themselves the energy to hold multiple jobs and still be full-time parents. Kids tend to eliminate the opportunity for sleep, and meth tends to eliminate some of the need to sleep. Kids and meth: It's a match made in heaven.
There was probably a better way to say that.
#4. Anti-Meth Stigma Can Make the Problem Worse
Anti-meth ads are intense, even by overwrought drug PSA standards. Here's one saying that using meth once is worse than being crippled in a car crash, despite the fact that one can more or less "recover" from an addiction. Another implies that meth will put you in an abusive relationship, even though plenty of sober people end up in those, too. The media is so effective, in fact, that even other drug addicts stigmatize meth use.
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"I respect my body too much for that crap, thankyouverymuch."
When Jessica (not her real name) first saw her boyfriend using meth, her reaction was to storm out of the house in a fury, even though she was currently using heroin. After Oscar shot meth into his penis, he needed medical attention, but he lied and said he'd injected cocaine, because he "didn't dare admit to using meth." He had no trouble admitting that he stuck a needle full of drugs into his wang, which is generally a thing a person should have a problem with. He was only uncomfortable admitting precisely which drug was coursing through his dong.
Not that there's much dignity to be saved with the guy palpating your swollen, track-marked wiener.
There's certainly an argument to be made for the intense anti-meth propaganda: Meth is a very bad thing, and by exaggerating the problem, we may keep people from ever starting it. Yet studies have found that these ads don't help, and may actually make the problem worse. To people who don't use meth, they seem cartoonish and ridiculous, and to people who are already users, the ads make them feel ostracized and gross, which often keeps them from seeking help for their problem. It's almost like the people making anti-drug ads have no experience with drugs whatsoever, but surely that cannot be ....
#3. Regulating Pseudoephedrine Didn't Even Keep Meth Out of the Supermarket
We made it harder to buy pseudoephedrine, so clearly this whole meth thing is over. Allergy pills are behind a little plexiglass door now, everybody -- we won! Meth is over.
"The laws banning pseudoephedrine -- about all that's done is shift the production to Mexico. So it's giving another inroad to Mexican drug violence," says Oscar. "2007 is when I noticed the change. I stopped buying from locals and started dealing with gang members."
Never mind the many other illegal ways people procure contraband, regulating pseudoephedrine didn't even keep the criminals out of the supermarket. Meth cooks now just hire a bunch of addicts to head over to the CVS for some Sudafed. Each one of these "smurfs" ("I don't know why they call them that," says Oscar) will probably get paid in meth. So in the move to reduce drug use, we have now created entirely new jobs that get paid solely in drugs.
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Of course, after taxes, it feels like Uncle Sam's the one really getting high. Thanks, Obama.