Dana (not her real name) turned 18 a month ago and decided it was time to talk about how she lived her life as a high school student experimenting with crystal methamphetamine, sex with boys and sometime with other girls.
“Someone like you may think I’m a slut,” she said after she slid into a booth at The Floyd Country Store in a small town sitting near the Blue Ridge Parkway and the mountains in Southwestern Virginia.
“Maybe I am,” she said. “I was giving boys blow jobs at 14 and ‘doing them’ at 16. I’ve had sex with more than I can remember or count now.”
She also started using crystal meth, a homemade concoction that folks cook up in pots and bottles on their stoves or “shake and bake” in their cars at speed on the country roads.
“Using meth really messed me up,” she says. “I’m trying to stay clean but it’s not easy. It’s pretty fucking hard.”
Dana’s eyes are sunken in and her jaundiced skin shows the disasterous effects of abuse of a drug that experts call “the most addictive substance in use today” and has reached epidemic proportions in rural areas of America.
Her sunken jaw line comes from loss of teeth, another sign of meth use.
She faces a court hearing in September where she will plead guilty to possession of a schedule II drug (meth). Prosecutors plan to drop two other charges and recommend she be allowed her final sentencing be delayed for at least a year to give her a chance to remain clean and stay out of trouble.
“I’ve got to stay clean,” she says. “I sent to go to college but that will have to wait until I can prove that I’m clean and will stay that way.”
She goes to NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings Roanoke, not far from her home in the country. Her family is not speaking to her after her mother, a conservative Christian woman who attends one of the many churches in the area, found out she was “sleeping around” as a young teenager while still in high school.”
“Mama says I’m going to hell,” Dana says. “If so, I will know a lot of folks there.”
“Unlike some other drugs, crystal meth often isn’t something you can simply “try once” and forget,” says an area drug counselor. “Illegal drug use is never a good idea, but crystal meth is particularly dangerous because it can hook users almost immediately.”
A report from Rehabs.com says this about meth:
One hit of crystal meth can cause a flood of dopamine – a “feel-good” neurotransmitter – to be released in the brain. This results in an extensive, concentrated and very pleasurable “high.”
Crystal meth’s intense high is only temporary, but its effects on your brain and mood are almost instant. The flood of dopamine it induces recedes very quickly, resulting in a devastating “crash” that causes extreme anxiety, fatigue, depression and even paranoia.
This so-called “binge and crash” effect drives users to seek that high over and over again. Now, users feel the need to continually chase after their first high. Tolerance to drug doses soon increases – so that more and more of the drug is needed to achieve the same effect.
Dana knows she faces a long and tough fight to kick her addiction to meth.
“If I don’t stay clean, I will die,” “That’s the only alternative.”