Photo by Heather Middleton
By Kathy Jefcoats
The images are startling, but they are meant to be.
A teenage girl makes plans over the phone with a friend to lie about their plans for the night, so they can attend a party against their parents' wishes.
She hangs up and gets into the shower, only to spot a scary, meth-ravaged version of herself huddled in the corner of the tub, begging her, "Don't do it, don't do it."
The program behind the series of television and radio ads targeting young people, and urging them to not use methamphetamine -- "not even once," is the Georgia Meth Project.
Program Manager Latrina Patrick spoke Wednesday to the Clayton County Rotary Club. All ad content is culled from research and real-life situations, she said.
"The ads are strategic and deliberate," said Patrick. "They are researched-based. They are realistic and scary, but scary because they are realistic. What happens with meth is very scary."
Patrick said research prior to the airing of the Meth Project ads showed 35 percent of Georgia teens were not aware that meth use was a big deal; 23 percent thought there was a health benefit to using meth, and 58 percent had had no discussions with their parents about meth.
"We just finished a massive undertaking, surveying 2,500 students in Georgia to see the effect of the campaign," she said. "We will be releasing that information later this summer, but we are happy to see that this campaign has been effective, so far."
Patrick said meth is highly addictive, and many users end up dead or in jail. Users can snort, inhale, inject or take it orally. There are new concerns that dealers are going out of their way to make the drug attractive to younger children.
"They are making it in candy form, to look like 'Sweet Tarts' or rock candy," said Patrick. "They are taking the choice away from kids by putting meth into candy form. And they [children] are getting it from their friends, not just dealers."
Parents can look for signs of meth use in their kids.
"The main [sign] is they don't sleep," said Patrick. "They are up for two and three weeks at a time. Look for change in behavior, friends, grades, and if they become violent. Another sign is bad teeth, called 'meth mouth.' Meth attacks the calcium in teeth, causing rot and decay."
And the end comes fast for some users.
"One kid lost everything he had 30 days after first using meth," she said. "Users can become delusional, have hallucinations, suffer brain damage and heart problems. It just depends.
"Meth is the worse drug out there, period," she said. "That's why we say, 'not even once.'"
Dorothy Cochran, of College Park, attended the Rotary Club presentation, and was stunned by the images and information.
"This is a powerful drug, more powerful than most people realize," said Cochran. "It is quite frightening that people are being addicted to meth. The ad campaign should be very effective."