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U.S. News

District of Columbia: Meth Comes Out of the Closet

November 8, 2005

District health officials are launching a crystal methamphetamine education, counseling and treatment campaign in response to the growing number of gay residents who use the libido-enhancing drug, some while cruising for sex.

Whitman-Walker Clinic, which provides HIV/AIDS care and other services, reports that 75 percent of new drug treatment clients list crystal as their primary drug of abuse. Crystal-related referrals to WWC's outpatient drug programs are five times their 2000 level. In four years, crystal went from "something we saw every once in a while" to the third most commonly abused drug after alcohol and crack cocaine, said Randy Pumphrey, executive director of the Washington Psychiatric Institute's Lambda Center, which provides substance abuse services for gay people.

Five Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA) groups now meet in the largely gay Dupont Circle neighborhood; two-and-a-half years ago there were none. Suburban treatment centers also report an increase in referrals.

Recent studies from Chicago and San Francisco show that crystal meth abusers are at a significantly heightened risk for HIV and other STDs.

"While some people enjoy the short-term benefits, it's the long-term effects, like the psychosis, that bring them to me," said Amy Bullock-Smith, WWC's addiction services program manager. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says the only effective interventions so far for crystal addiction are cognitive behavioral therapy and building stress-coping skills. CMAs appear to help sustain a drug-free recovery, the institute says, though relapse rates are high.

The District health department recently provided a $42,000 grant to the D.C. Crystal Meth Working Group, which will work with WWC to initiate a campaign to educate the non-using public, prevent meth abuse among gay men, and offer treatment referrals to meth users. "Let's Talk About Crystal Meth" and "Crystal Meth Sucks" posters will be placed in nightclubs and on pins and T-shirts.

Back to other news for November 8, 2005

Adapted from:
Washington Post
11.08.05; John-Manuel Andriote

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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