Heading off meth
Leonard Brown commands attention the moment he opens his mouth. The 58-year-old Loomis resident seems like a born leader, but it wasn’t always that way.
“I’m not ashamed to say I’m a recovering drug addict,” Brown told a group of 20 community members Tuesday in Tahoe City. “There’s hope after dope. But we need to get the message out.”
Brown is one of four recovering methamphetamine addicts featured in Placer County’s DVD, “It’s a Fact: Meth is Our Problem.” The county unveiled the video locally Tuesday night at Jake’s on the Lake in Tahoe City.
“Meth is rampant in the U.S. [and] California is the meth capital of the world,” said Placer County Assistant Sheriff Devon Bell. “It has touched every community. We don’t have many solutions, but we have ideas.”
Richard Burton, Placer County’s director of Health and Human Services, relayed startling statistics about meth, including that 600 Placer County high school students in 2004 admitted having taken the drug, and that 75 percent of meth users started before they turned 21.
“The greatest thing this stuff does is to destroy families,” Brown said. “I felt so alone. This thing destroyed me. It had me and I couldn’t let go.”
Brown, who has been drug-free for seven years, said he thought recovery was impossible.
“I didn’t think there was hope in me,” Brown said. “Addiction is not a hopeless condition. Recovery is possible. It doesn’t matter how far down you are.”
The DVD, which is free to all members of the community, is targeted toward adults. There has already been an overwhelming response, with community groups, schools and churches clamoring for the video, said Lisa Buescher, field deputy for Placer County District 5 Supervisor Bruce Kranz.
Kranz and Supervisor Jim Holmes spearheaded the project, with support from the entire county board. Both Kranz and Holmes appear in the 16-minute video, along with Burton, Placer Sheriff Ed Bonner, and the recovering addicts.
The video, which was modeled after the Montana Meth Project, serves as a warning and a cry for help. Bell insists everyone has been effected by meth in one way or another, and says now it is time to take action.
In addition to the video for adults, Placer County has provided grants county-wide for teens to produce their own videos aimed at youth. Both Sierra High School in Truckee and Creciendo Unidos in Kings Beach will make videos. A special program to assist pregnant women and new mothers facing drug addiction is being launched, and the county is adding a special meth page to its Web site.
The video has already been unveiled in Lincoln and Auburn, and more presentations are scheduled throughout the county. Placer County will host a larger meth forum in Tahoe later this year.
“We can form strategies, but we need you to implement them,” Bell told Tuesday’s audience. “We need to educate the entire community.”