Fighting meth first-hand

By Sara Schilling, Herald staff writerSeptember 23, 2008 

Jamie Crawford remembers the speaker who came to her school to warn about the dangers of drugs.

"I was going, 'Nuh uh, it (doesn't apply to me),' " she told a group of about 200 Pasco teens on Monday. "But it was me. It ruined my life."

Crawford, 23, of Yakima, shared her personal story of methamphetamine addiction with students at New Horizons High School. She was there with state Attorney General Rob McKenna as part of his Operation: Allied Against Meth campaign.

Washington has one of the most serious meth problems in the country, McKenna told the students. It had nearly twice as many reported meth labs as Oregon when McKenna took office four years ago, and the largest number of federal drug seizures of meth in the Pacific region, according to information from his office.

McKenna, Crawford and anti-drug activist Travis Talbot spent an hour with the students, showing video clips and giving hard facts about the drug. They've visited about 60 schools since 2005.

Talbot told the Pasco teens that about 90 percent of people become addicted the first time they try meth. When he said the average life span of habitual meth users is five years, gasps could be heard in the audience.

"It's not something to mess around with," Talbot said. "The damage you do right now you'll have to deal with the rest of your life."

Talbot is executive director of the Lynnwood-based nonprofit Lead On America.

Then Crawford stepped up to put a face on the statistics. She started using meth as a teen and spent several years getting high, going to jail and hurting people she loved, she said.

She also saw the dangers of the drug culture itself. For instance, when she was 16 she was at someone's house when a man's finger was chopped off in an argument over a pack of cigarettes, she said.

Crawford eventually got clean. Students asked her questions about her time as an addict and how she was able to beat the odds and kick meth.

Crawford now has a GED and is in college. She hopes her story will help others.

"When I chose to take that (first) hit of meth, I chose that lifestyle I had," she said. "There is hope. There are better things out there."

Nayeli Aranda, 17, a senior at New Horizons, said the message was one teens need to hear. Many students at her school are touched in some way by meth, she said.

"(The) campaign is trying to put a stop to it," said classmate Adriana Rojo, 18. "It's going to get through."

The 2008 Washington State Prevention Summit is planned in Yakima next month. Students are encouraged to attend.

For more information on the campaign, go to default.aspx.

w Sara Schilling: 582-1402; sschilling@

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