5 Facts About Meth the Anti-Drug Ads Won't Show You
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.
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.
"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.
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.
"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 ....
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.
Of course, after taxes, it feels like Uncle Sam's the one really getting high. Thanks, Obama.
Meth Addiction Comes With Bonus Downsides
"Meth has given antipsychotic meds street value," Oscar told us, "because people will take those to force themselves to come down and go to sleep." After, say, three days of using meth to keep your energy up while binge-watching every episode of The Wire, you'll do pretty much anything to get some sleep -- even if it means taking pills that can give you diabetes.
"Damn it. The whole reason I went with meth was to avoid needles."
But it's all worth it for that sweet, superhuman methy energy, right? If it was good enough to keep our boys fighting in World War II, it's good enough for cleaning the house every weekend. Except, like all drugs, if you do meth enough, you stop getting the positive effects.
"Even though you think of tweakers as people who wanna get up and move and have energy, you kinda just sit," said Oscar. "My addiction slowly evolved to me sitting in my bedroom all weekend watching porn. I didn't even want to go to the trouble of doing anything else. Eventually I did happen to hook up with somebody, and I was so out of shape that a few minutes in I was drenched in sweat and had to stop. I made up something about a heart condition, I was so embarrassed."
And here we are again, arguing that the real problem with drug abuse is that it makes boning more difficult.
Meth Friends Are Not Imaginary
The most common bit of advice given to addicts is that the people you use with aren't your real friends, they're just your co-users. You don't actually form bonds with those folks, so you need to cut ties with them immediately, to make room for the real friends who will drink Hi-C and go Rollerblading with you, or whatever it is normal people do with their downtime.
Motocross? Let's go with that.
"No, they were my friends," says Oscar. "They were shitty friends, but I still had that emotional connection with that other person. I don't think people appreciate the extent to which [an addict] kinda misses those people. They were people. They had redeeming qualities."
It's a fine practice to try to keep addicts out of scenarios that might encourage relapse, but telling them that their "meth friends" aren't real relationships and that they'll have to cut all ties only makes them scared that quitting the drug will leave them all alone. That puts a pretty big "losing all your friends" mark in the "con" column on the chart we presume you use to decide whether to get clean.
Destroying your body, getting jailed, and/or dying young versus not having anyone to
go to the movies with seems like an easy choice until you're forced to make it.
Besides, it's not always true: If you're lucky, there will be people waiting for you when you finally get clean.
"My other friends were pretty stoked [when I stopped using and] started spending time with them," Oscar says. "I was the person that they used to like again."
Keep those Rollerblades spinning, Oscar.
JF Sargent is an editor, columnist, and interviewer for Cracked. Contact him on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook. Oscar, who only did meth in his dick that one time, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related Reading: Did you know getting clean off heroin can be unfortunately orgasmic? Or that your nurse might be stealing your pain medication? Or that drugs pretty much give schedule and routine to homeless people? Have a story to share with Cracked? Email us here.
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