Explain the prevalence of LTNP Meth Users
Mar 29, 2011
I know dozens of people that have been doing meth for 20+ years and have been hiv+ for as many (no coincidence that both started around the same time, I am sure) I have, however, lost 3 dear friends, who after 5 or more years of abstaining suffered repeated bouts of illness and are now dead. I can't help but feel that they would still be alive today if they had continued using (not abusing) meth. In fact, my personal experience has been that people I know who do meth and are LTNPs seem to get sick less often and I've never met someone who has died from an AIDS related or meth-related illness with a history of regular meth use. I know dozens of people that have been doing meth for 20+ years and have been hiv+ for as many.
So, my question is, how can we do outreach to those people whose experience of daily meth usage with long-term HIV infection persists in conflict with the propaganda and hype surrounding the government's efforts to stop meth usage? I believe there needs to be a way to reach out to these people and offer ways for them to get help, including medication, and to give them support rather than degrade, humiliate, and stereotype them. If any other drug had been as effective as meth-amphetamine has been for these users, it would be considered a miracle drug and you would pay just as much from legit pharmaceutical companies.
Response from Dr. Fawcett
Thank you for writing. I have to rely on facts, and there is absolutely no medical literature that suggests any correlation between meth use and LTNPs. In fact, my personal experience has been the opposite. I've seen the devastating impact of meth on the health of many men and women, both with HIV and without. I frankly would challenge your numbers about knowing dozens of people who have regularly been doing meth and living with HIV for twenty years. I know of some men who can use meth on rare occasions without succumbing to catastrophic consequences, but I know many more who would like to believe they are among those who can do so, but unfortunately dig a very deep hole for themselves.
I do strongly agree with you that humiliation and shame have never been an effective drug prevention strategy. Campaigns that simply point out harmful physical consequences of a drug don't do anything to help someone using or at risk or using - they often just drive users underground, increasing their negative feelings about themselves and reducing the chances of reaching out for help due to shame.
Fortunately, this many years into the meth epidemic there are some good websites where people can get information and find assistance. Here are some non-judgmental sites where good information can be obtained: www.knowcrystal.org; www.projectneon.org; www.tweaker.org. -David
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