It's the dirty little secret of drugs: Methamphetamine, or as it is popularly known, "meth," is a highly addictive stimulant that even users are not proud to talk about.
"You don't hear people (bragging that they) did meth this weekend," said Mariela Ochoa, a Johansen High School student who is part of the Stanislaus County Center for Human Services' Meth Action Team, a group that is trying to do something about the meth problem here.
Recently, a program called "Crystal Darkness" was aired on several regional television channels. Its aim was to explain meth and what it does to your body. It featured interviews with former meth users and family members of meth users. There were tears, stories of struggles, drugs and prostitution.
"It will open up your eyes a little more," said Ochoa. "It's shocking to me what (meth) does to you."
The program featured meth users who talked about a variety of effects on the human body, including facial boils, tooth decay, graying eyes and brain damage. They told stories of an addiction that led to a hunger for meth that could not be satisfied. It led to lost homes, lost families and lives of crime and prostitution.
During this presentation, a phone number (1-888-Meth-Aid) and Web site (www.crystaldarkness.com) flashed across the screen. At the other end of this phone line, volunteers still are ready to talk with meth users, their families and anyone else affected by meth.
Members of the Methamphetamine Action Team, or MAT, watched the program together. The group consists of teens and their young adult mentors. Its purpose is to help anyone in the area who is affected by meth.
"We actually are making care packets for kids who are taken out of their homes" because their parents are meth addicts, said team member Angel Acosta, a Johansen High student. Because the removal usually is a matter of urgency, the kids often don't have time to gather up personal items — everything from toothbrushes and other toiletries to perhaps a favorite stuffed animal.
MAT also is putting together pamphlets for a media campaign and is considering awareness events including a possible "Music Over Meth" program.
The team members are advised by Kate Trompetter. The teens come from a variety of schools, including Johansen, Downey and Central Catholic. They all have different reasons for getting involved. They welcome others who might want to make a difference, whether they have been personally affected by meth or not.
"I was doing a problem/solution project on car theft," said one MAT member, Central Catholic student Lauren Coleman. "A lot of people who steal cars are on meth. I saw that, and the problem ... touched me."
Another member of the team, a former meth user who did not want to use her name, also is passionate about curbing meth use here.
"(People) talk about alcohol and marijuana. They don't touch so much on meth," she said. "After all, who wants to be (known as) the tweaker walking down the street talking to themself."
She said meth can affect anyone. "It happens," she said. "It's not just the bums that lose their homes."
To comment, click on the link with this story at www.modbee.com. Katie Mussman is a senior at Davis High School and a member of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom journalism program.