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North Carolina: Escape From Crystal City

May 5, 2010

Crystal Clear is a peer-led 12-step program, modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which meets weekly in Charlotte to help people struggling with addiction to methamphetamine. "William," one of the group's founders, recently marked seven years sober after nearly losing his life to the highly addictive stimulant.

After coming out as gay in his 30s, William said he first tried crystal meth with a sex partner in Atlanta. "I became an instant addict, and that one-time hit sent me into a five-day binge that began my descent into hell," he recalled.

Quickly, he began to neglect all his responsibilities and cared only about getting high: "What seemed like 10 minutes translated into 10, 15 and 20 hours of nonstop tweaking and nonstop unprotected sex with multiples of individuals and groups." William's weight plummeted; he was hospitalized five times suffering paranoid delusions.

When William finally made the decision to break his addiction, he turned to AA because there were no crystal-specific programs in Charlotte. Working with a local therapist and other recovering addicts, he eventually helped found Crystal Clear.

William's experience is not unique. The Gay & Lesbian Medical Association reports that -- for a variety of cultural reasons, including low self-esteem -- men who have sex with men are 10 to 20 times more likely to use meth than the general population. The extreme energy, heightened sexuality, and inhibition-smashing effects generated by the drug create a "perfect storm" for the transmission of HIV. A 2004 study by CDC and the San Francisco Department of Public Health found meth users were more than twice as likely to be HIV-infected as nonusers.

To learn more about Crystal Clear, telephone SupportWorks at 704-331-9500, or visit

Back to other news for May 2010

Adapted from:
Q Notes (Charlotte)
03.19.2010; David Stout

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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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