HOUSTON VOICE www.houstonvoice.com
JULY 2, 2004 3
Houston declares war on crystal meth
Montrose Clinic's Eric
Roland insists gay men
are facing a formidable
foe in meth, or Tina'
By JOSEF MOLNAR
At times sounding more like a battlefield general than a counselor, Eric Roland
called on concerned individuals to rise up
and fight an enemy that he and others consider a clear and present danger to gay men
Roland's comments came during an
event last week at the 1415 Grill hosted by
the Montrose Clinic entitled: "Tweaked: A
Community Forum on Crystal Meth and its
Link to HIV/STDs.
Roland, director of education for the
Montrose Clinic, led the discussion.
"This is nothing to be proud of," Roland
said. "Our gay men are getting sick,
they're getting addicted, they're getting
high out of their minds for days at a time,
losing weight, tooth loss, all the things that
go along with crystal meth."
If that wasn't enough, Roland
added, "And on top of that, they're getting
[sexually transmitted diseases] and HIV.
It's not something to be proud of, and it's
something we can change."
The event, attended by about 30 individuals, is the second forum of its kind offered
in Houston. It was staged to coincide with
Roland and other speakers used the
event to tell those in attendance about the
physical and mental threat posed by crystal meth.
Roland said the drug's increasing popularity in the club circuit and among sex
groups has overwhelmed local groups, and
organizations are now rising up to fight its
presence in Houston.
Crystal meth, also known as "Tina,"
"speed" or "T," has its roots as a psychoactive drug during World War II and later as
a cheaper alternative to cocaine in the
1970s, when it became the drug of choice
for bikers roaming along Route 66,
Crystal meth has since evolved into a
highly versatile and just as addictive drug
used by people from circuit party-goers to
middle-aged professionals. The powerful
combination of dangerous chemicals used
to make crystal meth create a long-lasting
high that removes inhibitions and gives
users heightened sensory impressions.
•f) MORE INFO
Crystal Meth Support Group
Roland said the threat is greater than
any drug that came before it, mainly
because of its highly addictive nature and
its relatively inexpensive price. He said
Tina is forcing gay organizations to band
together to combat its dangerous influence.
"Cocaine is a walk in the park compared
to cystal meth," he said. "It is so much
worse and only going to get worse."
Tina's 'Suicide Tuesdays'
Marc Cohen, president of the United
Foundation for AIDS in Miami, Fla., talked
about the drug's "suicide Tuesdays."
That's when weekend users find their bodies are drained after a weekend of partying
"Coming down requires the body to produce its own dopamine," Cohen said. "It
might take hours or an entire day to do
that, but until then you can be severely
Given the see-sawing effect of using
crystal meth, many users eventually find
themselves craving the drug more and
more to avoid downswings.
In the meantime, the inhibitions that
prevent unsafe behavior eventually erode
away completely, leading to a rise in unsafe
sex and a subsequent rise in infections of
HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.
Roland said crystal meth has created an
extreme public health crisis.
"I think before, we'd see crystal meth as
a drug problem, not an HIV or STD problem," Roland said. "Now, we start seeing
that connection and we see that the increase
in HIV and STDs could be because we're
seeing increases in the use of crystal meth."
The Montrose Clinic, Montrose
Counseling Center and other organizations
have begun to reach out to users in the
community The groups help users get in
touch with information and available
resources through Internet chat room services such as Project CORE, or Cyber
Tougher law enforcement
The courts recently recognized the dangers posed by the drug and have fiercely
reacted. While drug possession is treated
severely by Harris County courts, the 1996
federal Methamphetamine Control Act
made crystal meth possession a federal
crime and imposed stiffer penalities for
those caught in possession. The charges
and penalties are even more stringent for
persons caught trafficking in crystal meth.
Anyone suspected of possessing even
pipe residue can be arrested, with smalltime violators sentenced to from 180 days
to two years in a state prison and a $10,000
fine. The highest-level violators can
receive up to 99 years in jail.
Attnorney John Nechman sometimes
defends those caught with crystal meth. He
said many Harris County judges reject any
attempts at bargaining for lighter sentences.
"You go before the judge, and he rips it
up and says, 'I don't want it. This is too
easy,'" Nechman said. "To some of them.
possession is the same as selling it to elementary kids: they have a zero-tolerance
policy about it."
Brent Pendleton, a former user and
Montrose Clinic education outreach staff
member who told his story to the attendees, said his involvement with crystal
meth could have easily led to prison.
"I was lucky," he said. "You hear a lot
about jail and all of that, and thank God it
He has been clean for three years now,
and is happy he made the decision to kick
"I feel wonderful that meth is not a part
of my daily life," he said. "But I don't like
seeing what it does to other people. I feel
like it's destroying our community, and I
don't want to see our brothers and sisters
using drugs like that."
Cohen developed an ad campaign being
run in Miami called "Meth-Death," which
shows the physical and mental deterioration
suffered by long-term users of the drug.
"We decided to use this ad campaign
because we had to take the candy coating
off of the crystal meth," Coehn said. "For
the first time, we're taking the veil off. This
is no longer going to be our community's
dirty little secret."