METH 911: A New Option for Help

Index1_05
We’ve all
seen the scary images of methamphetamine’s toll on the body: the remnants of a
handsome face reduced to a visible skull with sunken eyes, withered skin and one
really bad case of meth mouth.

   Such visuals,
at one time widely used in drug prevention campaigns, may have had some value. For one thing, they certainly got our
attention. Until recently, many gay men
in our area were naïve about meth’s downside and its potent and destructive addictive
power.

   Florida arrived late at the meth party and
we were able to learn a great deal about the epidemic and what to expect from
gay communities on the west coast. But
even treatment professionals were unprepared and uninformed about meth’s unique
properties.

   These grisly
illustrations, however, also had unintended consequences. Men struggling with meth took one look and
went deeper underground. The images did
little to assist them in stopping the drug, but did a lot toward increasing their
shame about using it. Others in the
community who never tried meth were appalled that anyone would use a drug that
could do that, and a rift opened
resulting in further polarization.

   The South
Florida Meth Task Force, founded in 2003, responded to this knowledge gap by
providing “Meth 101” for over one thousand front-line professionals, including
therapists, substance abuse counselors, EMTs, law enforcement officers,
teachers, physicians, and HIV prevention workers.  The
Task Force, through the cooperation of multiple agencies and the volunteer time
of many individuals, helped get the word out about the risks of meth and other
substances among gay men as well. Soon the
meth problem became increasingly obvious.  People we cared for were crashing and burning
all around us and many were asking (as tweaker.org noted) “remember when sex
without speed did the trick?”

   Now, no one
can claim they are unaware of meth’s inherent risks. But knowledge itself, unfortunately, is
ineffective at fighting dopamine-fueled drug cravings. Scary skull pictures do little except remind
users about the harm they are causing for themselves. While self-help groups have become
increasingly available, south Florida has needed additional meth resources, and fast.

Enter Meth and Men South Florida (M&M), a
new program of Sunserve (www.methandmen.org)
that grew out of the South Florida Meth Task Force. M&M is dedicated to the support of men
in our community struggling with the crystal meth epidemic. Their website already lists resources in
south Florida,
and will soon grow to include other informational pages. M&M is dedicated to filling gaps in
services and in the near future will begin a therapy group focused on sexual
issues in meth recovery, sliding-scale individual counseling, and a variety of
other events like town hall meetings.

   Sometimes,
however, the near future is just too far away. Good news!  On Monday, July 14,
M&M will begin offering METH 911, a free weekly drop-in
group. METH 911, a
collaboration of Sunserve, Broward House, and the GLCC,
is a confidential and non-judgmental gathering
for anyone affected by crystal meth: individuals, partners, family, and friends.

   It will be held at the M Project (2645 North Andrews Avenue, Wilton  Manors) every Monday evening from
6:30pm to 8:00pm. More information is
available at from SunServe at
954-548-4602 or by e-mail to .

  Save
the creepy pictures for Halloween. With
groups like METH 911 we can
face a really scary problem together and discover that action and community
trump fear every time.

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