Meth is made from battery acid, drain cleaner and ammonia.
Meth puts you three times at risk for HIV.
These simple but powerful messages were at the heart of a Chicago-area campaign to stop the spread of methamphetamine among gay men. On Saturday, one of the originators of the campaign, Jim Pickett of the Chicago AIDS Fund, spoke at the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project sponsored Community Methamphetamine Summit about how similar messages can have an impact here.
Though it’s considered a relatively new phenomenon in these parts, meth is nothing new. Chemist Nagayoshi Nagai first synthesized meth from ephedrine in Japan in 1893. During World War II, German soldiers were regularly given chocolates laced with meth to increase their stamina, and Adolf Hitler himself, was given daily intravenous injections of meth for the treatment of depression and fatigue.
Meth for personal use is known to have started in the 1960s, and had reached crisis levels in the West, particularly California, by the late 1980s. Slowly, the drug – and the clandestine manufacture of such via risky home labs – started traveling east. As it did, gays in urban areas became immediately at risk to fall prey to the deceptiveness of this drug. Pickett said the quest for perfectionism, the body image issues, depression and suicide ideation and shame and guilt that many gay men suffer from work together to create the “ingredients for a perfect storm.”
“We might have issues about esteem and self confidence and crystal wipes them away,” he said. “We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. Even though Ellen is hosting the Oscars tomorrow, that doesn’t mean we’re in a place where all of us are safe. Until that changes, we’re in a vulnerable space for all substances, but crystal especially.”
The allure of meth – also known as Tina, Crissy, bump, speed and crytal – is easy to explain, according to Pickett.
“People do meth because it feels good,” he explained. “It feels good for a long time, and the bad effects don’t show up for some time. It’s very inexpensive compared to cocaine, and the high lasts much longer.”
But once the bad effects do show up, they show up in abundance. Meth use can result in memory loss, temporary psychosis, paranoia, loss of limits and loss of the ability to feel pleasure
“It taps out those places in your brain that monitor that,” Pickett said. “So you lose the ability to feel pleasure.”
You also lose the ability to perform sexually.
“Crystal causes crystal dick, which is limp dick, meaning it won’t pop up,” he said.
The result is that Meth has lead to increased usages of the prescription drugs Viagra and Levitra, which are used to treat erectile dysfunction.
The Chicago study sampled 1251 people. Out of those, 125, or 10 percent, reported using Meth at least once in the past year, while 23 or 2 percent reported weekly meth usage, and only 2 or 0.16 percent reported daily usage. The relatively low numbers have lead Pickett to call meth use among gay men in Chicago an endemic instead of an epidemic. But that’s why the campaign, which can be found at www.crystalbreaks.com, is essential. If the issue is left un-addressed, those numbers will only grow. That’s why MAPP has created a similar campaign, which can be found at www.nothingpretty.org.
“In the last three years, we’ve gotten involved in the issue of methamphetamine … knowing it impacts negatively on people’s health,” said MAPP Executive Director Craig Covey. “We’ve always tried to anticipate problems before they become crises. Our local police chief has said he doesn’t believe there’s any meth in Ferndale … but we do know it’s here.
“Our goal is to keep it from becoming the crisis it’s been in Seattle and Salt Lake City.”