The destructive impacts of Methamphetamine reach well beyond the person using the drug. Meth is one of the most highly addictive substances in the world, and people who use the drug can suffer devastating medical, psychological, and social consequences. It’s use can cause memory loss, aggression, psychotic behavior, heart damage, malnutrition, and even something as “simple” as severe dental problems. Methamphetamine use also contributes to increased transmision of infectious diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS. Further impact comes from the strain that meth use puts on the resources of law enforcement, employers, foster care, public health, and the criminal justice system, resulting in higher crime, unemployment, child neglect or abuse, as well as other social issues.
To help address the crisis that meth was causing in local communities, Montana businessman Thomas Siebel established the Montana Meth Project. Its goal was to significantly reduce meth use through a combination of public education and community outreach.
The Montana Meth Project was first implemented in 2005. At the time, the state was overwhelmed by methamphetamine abuse. It ranked fifth in the United States for Meth abuse. Fifty percent of foster care admissions were meth related, and state officials estimated that meth cost Montana more than $300 million per year, including costs for drug treatment, healthcare costs, and costs associated with the criminal justice and social service systems.
The Montana Meth Project’s prevention program includes statewide television, radio, and outdoor advertising campaigns that have gained national attention. The gritty, hard-hitting commercials have been directed by some of Hollywood’s top directors, including Oscar nominees Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler and Black Swan), Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel), and Oscar-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister (Inception). They have been featured in news stories on CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, Fox News, and National Public Radio, as well as in major newspapers such as The New York Times.
In addition to its advertising campaigns, the Montana Meth Project has also done extensive community outreach to educate teens about the risks of using meth and to give them an opportunity to get involved. In 2006 and 2010, Montana held a statewide Paint the State contest, in which thousands of teens throughout the state created public works of art. In 2010, everything from bulldozers and jagged pieces of mirror to demolished cars and papier-mâché were used to create art that depicted lives shattered by meth. In all, the public art pieces blanketed more than 30,000 square feet across the state.
The Montana Meth Project has also partnered with the Boys & Girls Club, the University of Montana, and Montana State University on special events to get out the project’s “Not Even Once” message. This year the University of Montana and Montana State University each hosted Montana Meth Project “Black Saturday” events during the 2011 football season to spread the word about the risks of methamphetamine use to teens, parents, and young adults. At each game, football fans wore black to symbolize their support, and football’s traditional “red zone”—the yardage inside the 20-yard line at each end of the field—was known as the “Black Zone” for the Black Saturday games.
Since launching in 2005, the Montana Meth Project has achieved significant results. According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey administered by the Montana Office of Public Instruction, Montana has seen a 63 percent decrease in teen meth use. Meth-related crime in Montana has decreased by 62 percent, reversing a trend of rising crime, and according to a report issued by the Montana Attorney General, costs to the state associated with meth have dropped from $300 million in 2005 to $200 million per year.
Today the Meth Project has been implemented in seven additional states: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, and Wyoming. In Arizona and Idaho, the two Projects first implemented after Montana, they have experienced similar results to those seen in Montana. In Arizona, teen meth use is down by 65 percent, and in Idaho, teen meth use is down by 52 percent.
This year, the Meth Project and all of its state affiliates, including Montana, announced a new integrated campaign to further reduce meth use. Built on the theme “Ask MethProject.org,” the campaign equips teens with facts, tools, and resources to understand the risks of meth and to influence their peers. The centerpiece of the new campaign is MethProject.org, a definitive source for information about methamphetamine that empowers teens to learn, connect, and share. The campaign also includes new TV, radio, print, online, mobile, and social media including new TV ads directed by Darren Aronofsky.
MethProject.org gives teens the interactive experience they have come to expect in the digital world. Organized around getting answers, speaking out, and taking action, MethProject.org addresses teens’ most frequently asked questions about the physical, mental, and social effects of meth use. Each question is answered with a range of content—more than 350 in all—from interactive facts, videos, animations, image galleries, polls, and quizzes, to personal stories from users, their friends and family, and first-hand accounts from experts.
Designed to spark exploration and engagement, MethProject.org brings to life the vast amount of research on the subject in a way that is highly interactive and accessible to young people. For instance, teens can take a normal beating heart to meth-induced heart attack level in the simulation “Heart in Overdrive,” learn how meth rapidly changes a user’s appearance by pairing before and after photos in “Mug Shot Match-up,” dose a healthy brain with meth to watch its effects, or experiment with the drug’s ingredients to see which ones explode or emit toxic gas. Personal stories from users are told through videos, rich animations, and drawings as teens describe their experiences with meth in poignant detail.
The Meth Project’s large-scale prevention campaigns have been developed in consultation with top experts in research, prevention, treatment, advertising, and digital media, including experts from National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, RAND Corporation, UCLA, University of Illinois, and the Partnership for a Drug Free America. Meth Project.org is the culmination of 6 years of campaign development and quantitative and qualitative research conducted with more than 50,000 teens and young adults, including 60 national and statewide surveys, and 112 focus groups.
“The Meth Project has been remarkably effective in reducing meth use through its research-based prevention campaigns,” said Dr. Kevin Kunz, a physician and specialist in addiction medicine and President of the American Board of Addiction Medicine. “The data clearly demonstrates that if teens understand the risks of meth use, they will make better informed decisions, and usage declines. Until now, there has not been a central place where teens could get all the facts about methamphetamine. MethProject.org fills that gap and is a definitive source of information about meth for young people.”
The Meth Project is funded by a grant from the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation. The Montana Meth Project is funded by a combination of public and private donations. For more information about the Montana Meth Project, or to make a donation, please go to www.montana.methproject.org.