Crystal Huerta said the best day of her life was when she went to jail. She was pregnant, and jail was her best chance to rid herself of an addiction to methamphetamine.
Huerta, of Yerington, was given meth at age 9 by a relative, who told her it would make her skinny, give her friends and make her popular.
Instead, it took over her life.
By the time she was 11, she knew how to cook the meth herself.
At 17 she dropped out of school and married a 32-year-old addict. Together they smoked meth, moved around and became homeless. Eventually, another of Huerta's relatives sent her money to bring her home.
Her addicted husband tricked her into leaving the house. When she returned, he and all her possessions had disappeared.
Many of her family members were users, she said. Her health was poor, she was frighteningly thin and her skin was a sickly pale. By the age of 21, she lost all her teeth.
Convicted of drug offenses, Huerta spent nine months in jail and then more time on house arrest. One month after her release, she had her baby.
"I went to about 18 meetings a week," she said. "Mostly because I was under house arrest and the meetings were a chance to get out of the house."
The meetings convinced her to change the path she had taken. She got her G.E.D., learned to speak Spanish, took any kind of class that was offered. "I decided to change my life," she said.
Now six years clean, the 27-year-old is an intern for the Lyon Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs and serves as a Spanish interpreter for the courts.
"I don't want to be the biggest and best drug user in Yerington any more," she said.
Huerta told her story to about 75 Dayton residents at a meth forum this week, sponsored by the Health Communities Coalition of Lyon and Storey County. The forums have been held across Lyon County in the past two weeks, with more to come.
Roy Planeta, representing the Tri-Net Drug Task Force, said a recent survey of police officers shows they consider meth to be the top drug problem in the region.
"In Northern Nevada, crystal meth is the drug of choice," he said. "It can get you on the first try. The high is so powerful you want to try it again and again and again."
Methamphetamine is a manmade drug that stimulates large amounts of dopamine in the brain, neurotransmitters that control feelings of pleasure. After awhile the brain no longer produces dopamine naturally, it waits for the drug.
Drug use affects the memory and causes behavioral problems such as aggression and paranoia, psychological problems that can become permanent, Planeta said.
It ruins a user's teeth, increases body temperature, blood pressure, causes convulsions and the chance of a stroke or heart attack. It can cause long-term malnutrition as well as liver, kidney and brain damage.
Planeta told the story of Kathy James, a meth addict from California who lost all perspective and more when an explosion occurred while she was cooking meth.
"She was more concerned with saving her drugs and destroying evidence than saving her four children," Planeta said. "Three of the four children died, and she's now serving time for murder."
The drug is so toxic, Planeta said that children who are raised in meth homes often test positive from the drug by just being around it.
The forums also featured a substance-abuse professional that gave information on treatment and social service professionals with tips on prevention. In addition to the Dayton event, forums have been held in Virginia City and Silver Springs. More are scheduled for next week in Silver City, Fernley and Yerington.
"The purpose is to raise awareness about meth," said Jessica Cutts, Healthy Communities' coalition coordinator. "We'd love to see the communities mobilize and better their communities."
It had an effect on Dayton resident Adrienne Turner, who has a 7-year-old daughter.
"I'm getting involved, that's why I came," she said. "There's no reason not to get involved now."
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 882-2111 ext. 351.
Upcoming meth forums
SILVER CITY: 7 p.m. Monday at the fire station
YERINGTON: 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Boys and Girls Club
FERNLEY: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the high school