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Crystal Meth…the satanic brew crippling the gay community


jimmy palmieri | February 15, 2006

Body by crystal
Meth, Tina, speed, chalk, ice, rock, glass are all street names for the drug meth amphetamine. This noxious recipe of chemicals, that may include, but are not limited to, ephedrine, crystal drain cleaner, bleach, battery acid and nail polish remover, among others, has the capability if destroying lives more quickly than any illicit drug currently available. It is so addicting to some, that after the first try, so strong is the craving to use again, that all else becomes secondary.

Crystal meth has taken a strong hold on the gay and lesbian community, with a particular vengeance on gay males for a variety of reasons. The affects of meth make the user less inhibited, and more euphoric in mindset. This is particularly enticing to gay men, who may have been admonished by their families, not accepted by their peers at school, or have not fit into what even their own community deems acceptable. Society has continually isolated gays and lesbians, leaving many with the desire or need to fit into some type of adopted crowd or family. Meth is sadly, the common thread among many of the disenfranchised. Meth also has the distinct capability of making men more libidinous, thereby making their feelings of inhibitions all the more exaggerated. This has created a devastating parallel between meth addiction, and HIV infection.

This was explained to a group of community members at the Kings Road Park meeting room, in West Hollywood, last Wednesday, February first by Dr. Matthew Torrington. Being Alive, APLA and Prometa addiction treatment center sponsored this community program. Dr. Torrington, a family medicine licensed MD, who specializes in the disease of addiction, fielded a barrage of questions from the audience of about fifty.

He explained that there exists naturally in our brain, the overwhelming desire to eat, sleep, and have sex. All three of these release chemicals into the brain, making us want each activity more, appropriately. The brain has the distinct ability to turn each desire off as needed. Herein lies the catch with crystal meth. It tricks the brain into thinking it needs more and more of this. By releasing an overload of the “feel good” chemical in our brain called dopamine, the brain is tricked into not “turning off“ the desire. The brain is unused to this amount of dopamine, making cravings almost unbearable. Thus begins the hellish nightmare of meth addiction.

And hell it is states Dr. Torrington. The last study that was completed in the US in the year 2000 marked more than six hundred thousand meth addicts trying to seek some sort of recovery. In California alone, meth is the primary addiction of choice preceded only by alcohol. Meth is snorted, slammed (injected), smoked and booty bumped (a liquid mix is inserted into the rectum). Sadly, slamming is the primary mode for more than half of the gay community, and can be the most difficult to recover from. It also aids in the transmission of HIV and the Hep C virus. More than ninety percent of addicts in recovery from meth relapse in the first twelve months of sobriety according to Dr. Torrington. He actually stated he feels the percentage is even higher than that.

Treatment has been or is only helping about ten to twelve percent of crystal meth addicts at any given time. The reason for this community meeting was to introduce a possible curative treatment to eliminate the desires associated with crystal meth addiction. It is called Prometa and is a proprietory blend of three FDA approved drugs currently being used with great safety. It was developed in Spain and is now being tested on patients in the US. There are only five doctors licensed to dispense this treatment in California that consists of three days of an hour long intravenously administered medication, followed by a ritual of medications in the morning and the evening. This is repeated between two to three weeks later, depending on the doctor’s recommendations, and the patient’s level of addiction. This is not cheap, costing about fifteen thousand dollars, which is not currently covered by insurance or and federal funding. They are in the testing stage, and collecting data. Dr. Torrington stated there are about three hundred patients receiving this so far, and they have had amazing success in curbing the craving for using.

He made it abundantly clear, that this is not a cure, and is part of a three-pronged approach to recovery. The treatment itself, an intensive therapy and medical program, and a good nutrition based program. Once the data is collected, and the patients receiving this for free through trial programs, are studied, the treatment center will begin asking for federal monies to help those without access to healthcare. Also of course, they will be trying to get insurance companies to pay for the treatment if it proves successful.

Is this snake oil or could they be onto something? From what I have read and from what I am hearing it sounds promising. It is not widely available, it is expensive, and it is not for every case.

Until then, let’s hope that our addicted friends, family and community members, find their way out of the hellish nightmare of crystal use, and hope that our youth decide that this drug is “not cool”, while they are finding their place of belonging.

Jimmy Palmieri is a member of the West Hollywood Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board. – Issued by Gay Link Content


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