The governor's task force on the methamphetamine crisis got a different take on the subject Thursday.
"Today you're going to be hearing from the true experts," said consultant Linda Lang. "Those who've been through it and have beaten the drug."
The advice they got urged stronger and more graphic education programs throughout the school years to prevent young people from ever trying the drug - along with jail or confinement even for those facing their first conviction to drive home the point - and tough, mandatory treatment programs.
Shawna Braselton, of Reno, echoed the comments of the others saying in her 14 years of using meth, "I never considered myself addicted. I never tried to stop."
Matt Lowry, of Carson City, who began using meth at age 16, said what finally convinced him was his deteriorating physical condition.
"I remember looking in the mirror when I got out of the shower and seeing nothing but a skeleton and stepping on a scale being 6'2" and 115 pounds," he said. "My primary motivation was fear - of death."
Jamee Fox, of Winnemucca, who started using when she was 16, said she completed drug court but had a relapse that sent her to prison for 10 months.
"I was never motivated to get clean," she said. "I was forced. Prison forced me to get clean."
Braselton said, "I never tried to stop until I lost my house, my job and almost lost my husband,"
Jesse Hill, of Reno, said he started using meth in the 1960s and, "probably knew in the mid-1980s I was addicted but didn't know I couldn't stop.
"What motivated me to get clean was I'd pretty much given up on everything in life. I was hearing voices and hallucinating and that's very strong motivation."
He said he has been clean 10 years now but still regularly attends a 12-step program and works with other recovering addicts.
Dee Worth, of Las Vegas, who cleaned up after 15 years using, also works with a drug recovery program - the residential program she says saved her. She said that program taught her about her addiction, about meth and also how to make changes in her life to cure the issues that were driving her to use meth.
If a person is given the right tools, they can maintain sobriety," she said.
Fox urged much stronger education programs for young people.
"They need to see the dirty side of methamphetamine as soon as they hit high school," she said. Keeping users in jail a week or two doesn't work, she said.
"I don't think anybody should do less than three to six months," she said.
"My personal opinion? Make it hell. Make jail hell so they don't want to come back."
Then, she said, the rehabilitation program will be a much more attractive alternative.
Worth agreed with increasing jail time for first offenders.
"Any less and they'll go back out there and do it again."
She said addicts have to be clean long enough for their minds to clear, then put into mandatory treatment programs.
"The treatment has to be intensive and you can't get that from the weekend recovery club," she said. "And absolutely show them the effects. Nobody came to my high school and showed me meth-mouth."
Braselton said she was originally taught meth, marijuana and all other drugs were the same but then saw people using marijuana in college without serious effects.
"People didn't go crazy. Nothing happened. If I had learned methamphetamine was a different drug, I might not have tried it."
Lowry said education should also involve parents.
"A lot of parents allow their kids to drink - even smoke pot with them," he said. "You need to crack down harder on parenting."
All of them told task force members their addiction isn't just confined to meth.
"Methamphetamine was just waiting to happen to me," Worth said. "I displayed addictive behaviors all my life."
"I wasn't just using methamphetamine," said Fox. "I was using everything."
All five said talking to other users and addressing groups like the task force helps them stay clean.
The task force, headed by Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, has been charged with preparing a statewide plan to deal with the methamphetamine addiction crisis. Law enforcement officials say meth is now the majority of their drug cases in most parts of the state.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.
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