California is so geographically huge with such a large population, that problems which are sometimes more evident elsewhere are also problems here too, even if they may not get as much attention. One such problem is methamphetamine usage.
Meth usage is more prevalent in rural areas than cities. Abandoned buildings in remote areas can be used for meth labs, plus one of the main precursors for cooking meth is anhydrous ammonia, a common fertilizer often stored in large quantities in tanks. But of course, meth made in the country certainly finds its way to cities too.
The Butte County Meth Strike Force details the serious meth problem in their area, which encompasses Chico and Oroville. They say local authorities estimate that a staggering 80% of crime is related to meth. This can be from those making and selling it, users caught possessing it, those doing crimes to get money to buy it, and other crimes like rape and child abuse committed by highly unstable meth addicts.
Further, the environmental damage done to usually rural areas by meth labs is severe. Large amounts of seriously toxic substances are left behind, sometimes contaminating water supplies. Those renting homes to others may find themselves responsible for the clean-up bill when the rental has become uninhabitable due to a meth lab being there.
Although California is not one of their target states, The Meth Project has a wealth of information available and specializes in releasing hard-hitting, highly effective 30 second TV spots aimed at reducing first-time meth usage by young people. In an ad titled Ben, a girl’s voiceover speaks as you see scenes from Ben’s life, starting with him convulsing on a couch.
“This is where he went into convulsions. This is the emergency room where he nearly died. This is where he used right after he got out, and this is where he hung himself because he said he couldn’t quit – and this is what I said, when he told me he was going to try meth.”
She is silent and looks like she’s about to cry.
They have many ads like this which you can view on their website or on YouTube. The Meth Project is active in Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Montana, Wyoming, and Arizona. Their ads are effective, and they have numerous studies showing that meth usage drops dramatically in areas where the ads run.
Meth makes you extremely paranoid and thus can result in hyper-aggression as well as psychosis. It rots your teeth, leaving many meth users with blackened or crumbling teeth which will require major dental surgery. It obviously is highly addictive and will take you down faster than heroin or cocaine, as the Faces of Meth shows with their before and after mug shots of arrestees as they spiraled into addiction. Sometimes the after photo is just a few months later too, and shows a formerly healthy person now gaunt, with lesions on their face, looking years older.
This is not an abstract issue for me. I was addicted to meth for a couple of years in the late 1960’s and managed to escape with my teeth and brain intact. Too many don’t. The Meth Project is saving lives. And if you or someone you know is addicted to meth, the best thing you can do is get them to Narcotics Anonymous or (since most addicts are also alcoholic) Alcoholics Anonymous.