Meth Project Uses Disturbing Ads to Send Message about Meth Addiction

Meth Project Uses Disturbing Ads to Send Message about Meth Addiction

Perhaps you’ve seen the ads—one shows a hunched-over, bloodied woman with the caption, “My mother knew I’d never hurt her, then she got in the way.” Another image shows a jail cell complete with bunk beds and a urinal that reads, “No one thinks they’ll spend a romantic evening here. Meth will change that.” These disturbing images are courtesy of the Meth Project, a nonprofit organization that says it’s showing the ugly truth about methamphetamine use through graphic print and broadcast ads.

Drug officials say meth has been a major threat in rural America because it is cheap and easy to make from over-the-counter drugs and common ingredients. Individuals aged 12-14 who live in small towns are more than twice as likely to use meth than those who live in large cities, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency, which calls meth the most dangerous drug problem of small-town America.

The Meth Project began in 2005 in Montana, what was then the heartland of meth. Since the ads started appearing, meth use has dropped 45 percent among teens, and government officials in Montana credit the project for this decline. The ad campaign has since spread to Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, and Wyoming.

Now the project is targeting the growing population of Spanish-speaking teens in the Western US through television commercials and radio ads spoken in Spanish. One of the radio ads in Idaho features the voice of recovering addict Aucensio Flores. In the ad, Flores says he first tried meth at 15, which began a downward spiral. “I think it affected my brain,” he says. “I have bad thoughts and I only want to do bad things, such as hurt people. I think I am going crazy.”

Flores also explains that meth made it easier for him to become involved in gangs and crime, saying it made him feel “big and bad.” He has beat up and robbed people and has taken part in drive-by shootings. Although he never imagined being locked up, he is now serving time at a juvenile correction center in Idaho for grand theft, possession of a weapon by a minor, and drug possession.

Colleen Foster, Flores’ drug rehabilitation counselor, said that up to 40 percent of juveniles in the facility have a history of meth addiction and that it takes over their lives. “It starts to destroy their value system. It eats away at every aspect of their life: family, responsibility to community, responsibility to education, responsibility to themselves even,” Foster said. “It just eats away at all that until they have no value system left, that the only thing they’re doing is seeking for that high.”

Foster said she supports the Meth Project’s Spanish ad campaign because the problem extends to all populations, including Latinos. She said she thinks outreach needs to be better tailored for the growing Latino community in Idaho.

Yair Perez, another recovering meth addict who recorded an ad for the Meth Project, said that he hopes to reach young Latinos who aren’t getting the message in English. “They might understand a little bit of it or half of it,” Perez said. “But if they hear it … in their own language … the way they were born and they were raised…then maybe they will pay a little more attention to it and maybe think about it, instead of doing it.”

Miguel Mouw, a Meth Project volunteer in Idaho and also a recovering meth addict, says that there is a lack of education, support, treatment, and resources in the Hispanic community because of the communication gaps. He speaks in classrooms throughout Idaho and at community events, and said he thinks the graphic ads are needed to drive home the message.

“I’ve seen people lose everything, you know, from their toes to the top of the head, either through death or maybe it’s the sores or the scabs [affecting] the teeth or the eyes,” Mouw said. “The list is endless. It really is.”

Source: CNN, Meth Ads Talk to Teens in Spanish, June 5, 2009

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