Pubdate: Mon, 26 Feb 2007
Source: Monterey County Herald (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Monterey County Herald
Author: Peter Hecht
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


SACRAMENTO - The camera draws in on a young woman's face. Her teeth 
are blackened with decay. Her neck is covered with red sores -- the 
work of a manic methamphetamine addict who can't stop clawing at her own skin.

"It's really not a big deal," she says in an upbeat chatter. "... 
It's like, you know, who's gonna tell? I mean look at me. You can't 
tell. I'm fine. Right? I'm fine."

The message is one of many television commercials -- grim, stark and 
powerful -- now being aired in California media markets. It's part of 
a campaign aiming to curb methamphetamine abuse in a state that is 
far and away the national leader in the meth scourge.

The public service campaign is part of a combined effort by the 
California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs and the 
Partnership for a Drug Free America.

Television and radio spots and a Web campaign of horror stories from 
meth users and victims have been produced for free by leading 
national advertising agencies. Air time is being donated by local 
television and radio affiliates and a related public relations 
campaign is being funded under a $200,000 federal Substance Abuse and 
Prevention and Treatment block grant.

"We're using this as a jumping off point to begin the discussion with 
California communities on the nature this problem," said Kathryn 
Jett, the director of state alcohol and drug programs. "I think we're 
going to put some important messages out: Meth is nothing to play 
with. And it isn't going to be 'fun' for very long."

The public service campaign is but a precursor to a $10 million 
"California Methamphetamine Initiative." The three-year program, 
funded by the Legislature in 2006, will develop a statewide public 
education campaign targeting high risk populations affected by methamphetamine.

In 2005, California led the nation with over 77,000 publicly funded 
treatment admissions for meth abuse. Methamphetamine addiction in the 
state has reached such proportions that California now accounts for 
40 percent of the nation's total medical admissions for the drug.

The state's long-term campaign seeks to target three groups deemed 
particularly at risk: gay men, pregnant women and teens.

With meth seen by many users as a potentially euphoric high, a sexual 
stimulant and a weight loss drug, one-third of California users begin 
taking the drug between the ages of 15 to 20.

Meanwhile, gay men in California are considered 10 to 20 times more 
likely than the general public to use the drug. And methamphetamine 
accounts for 57 percent of reported drug abuse among pregnant women.

So Jett said California is unleashing a multi-step "social marketing 
and media campaign" to inspire meth users to seek treatment and "stop 
others from ever using it."

"This is a public health and public safety issue," Jett said. "We're 
seeing very high rates of trauma and abuse and lot more domestic 
violence. The drug creates paranoia, questions and fear about things 
that aren't even happening. And that leads to violence."

Arguing that media campaigns can work to curb methamphetamine abuse, 
Jett points to the success of a $5.6 million "Montana Meth Project" 
launched in 2005 with primary funding from a computer industry 
entrepreneur, Thomas Siebel.

In a report last month, Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath 
reported a 73 percent drop in 2006 in workplace positive drug tests 
for amphetamines or methamphetamines.

Officials in Montana also credited a 2005 law, similar to policies in 
California, that put cold medicines containing psuedoephedrine -- a 
key component in methamphetamine -- behind pharmacy counters. 
California law restricts the amount of pseudoephedrine products 
consumers can buy at one time.

Cathy Dunn, California regional manager for the Partnership for a 
Drug Free America, insists that shock therapy works in the anti-meth 
media campaign.

And so Californians are viewing public service television spots such 
as one showing a doll being dipped in a vat of boiling oil. "What 
happens when someone uses crystal meth?" the voice-over says. "... 
You slide into a world that will burn away the way you look, your 
health, your sanity and eventually, your life."

The ads direct audiences to the state alcohol and drug program Web 
site,, or to an informational hotline, 866-STP-METH.

Meanwhile, in a related Web compaign (, viewers can 
hear "Paul's Story" as a California jail inmate breaks down in 
telling of his descent from star high school soccer player to a meth 
abuser and armed robber.

And they can tune in to "Ashley's Story" and "Amber's Story," the 
accounts of two girls who had to fend for themselves as their parents 
spiraled into meth use and their mother stabbed their father.

"Our idea is to keep it real," Dunn said. "We want to show the 
devastating impact meth has."
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