Methamphetamine Spread in South Florida Causes Alarm
February 27, 2004
Methamphetamine, a growing problem nationwide, has begun to surface in South Florida during the past few years. In 2003, Miami-Dade and Broward County health experts and law enforcement officials set up South Florida's first meth task force. Five months later, authorities seized 10 pounds of crystal meth in Coral Gables. By the end of fiscal 2003, authorities had dismantled 299 meth labs statewide. In the first quarter of fiscal 2004, law enforcement officials dismantled 88 labs.Adapted from:
White-collar users in the gay party circuit call the drug "Tina" and claim it keeps their abs tight, allows them to dance all night, and loosens their inhibitions. Health officials say meth use in south Florida has contributed to the recent spike in HIV/AIDS and syphilis rates. Studies in California have shown that meth users, both gay and straight, are likely to have more sexual partners and riskier sex than other types of drug users.
In 2002, Marc Cohen, president of the United Foundation for AIDS in Miami, helped organize the area's first Crystal Meth Anonymous meeting. An estimated 200 former users attend daily meetings in Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale, he said, and plans are underway to start meetings in Palm Beach County. Almost all who attend are gay men, and more than half are HIV-positive or have had syphilis.
The Broward County Commission on Substance Abuse organized a community forum in Fort Lauderdale in November to address the emerging drug epidemic and its correlation with the spread of STDs. Cohen said the drug's attraction for some gay men is especially powerful. Escaping through meth is seductive for those who have struggled with issues of sexual identity, acceptance and insecurity. "Crystal becomes a very strong veneer for someone facing depression," Cohen said.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
02.22.04; Noaki Schwartz