They came together out of concern, each wearing a black T-shirt with the words “Life is My Drug” emblazoned on the front. Their stories were powerful, moving and frightening.

“We’re only at the beginning stages of a meth outbreak nationwide,” said Dr. Jim Hall, one of the panelists at last week’s NoMoreMeth.org Town Hall.

Inside Wilton Manors’ Pride Center, community leaders, health care professionals, law enforcement officers and recovering addicts gathered to put their heads together and dissect the methamphetamine problem in the gay community. Hall, an epidemiologist, was one of five panel speakers. Joining him were Dr. David Fawcett, a mental health counselor, HIV specialist Dr. Scott Hall and legal expert Howard Finkelstein.

They all agreed, methamphetamine causes big problems.

“It’s highly toxic to your brain,” Dr. Fawcett said. “It’s causing a lot of destruction to the brain.”

During the two-hour program, audience members heard from Kevin, who gave only his first name and admitted to being a longtime user of what is commonly referred to as Crystal Meth.

“I felt invincible,” said Kevin as he described his “Tina” lifestyle. “And the sex that came with it was incredible.”

Living in Orlando at the time, Kevin said his life eventually took a downward spiral and he lost his job as a regional manager for Best Buy, fell out of touch with his family and was arrested.

“This drug took me to the darkest points I’ve ever been in my life,” Kevin said.

Dr. Jim Hall said the drug originates in Mexico and primarily is a problem in the western United States. He said Atlanta is the hub for distribution in the eastern United States and called those who go out to collect the pseudoephedrine, a key component in the manufacturing of methamphetamine, “Smurfs.” Pseudoephedrine is the main ingredient in over the counter drugs like Sudafed. Because of its use in meth its been highly regulated in the U.S. and so production of the drug has been moving to Mexico.

New users, Dr. Jim Hall said, run the risk of becoming psychotic in a short period of time due to meth’s potency.

More than 100 people filled the Pride Center’s John C. Graves community room, to hear the horrible stories associated with methamphetamine use. Kevin said he would masturbate up to 15 hours a day and engage in anonymous sex with multiple partners. The effects of this type of risky behavior is what Dr. Scott Hall sees a lot of at South Florida’s Care Resources.

“We are the Syphilis capital of the United States,” Dr. Scott Hall said. “And I’m sick of seeing it. We are also seeing a lot of new HIV infections, particularly in young African Americans.”

Dr. Scott Hall said, in his 18 years of practice, he is seeing the most infected “track marks” from where methamphetamine users are injecting the drug via needles and syringes known on the street as “slamming.”

Despite the scary stories, there is hope for those seeking recovery from meth use. Support groups meet weekly at the Pride Center and NoMoreMeth.org is an organization dedicated to eradicating crystal meth from the gay community. Hanging out with peers fighting a similar battle is far better than being arrested and having a public defender represent you, said Finkelstein.

“By the time you see me, your life is going down the shitter,” Finkelstein said. “You’ve been arrested. You’re broke and you got me as a lawyer.”

According to police figures, in Fort Lauderdale, arrests for Meth doubled this year, while 22 kilos have been seized in Broward County alone with a street value of $5 million.


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