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I find it ironic that Ryan Grim castigates the Washington Post for doing the kind of journalism we need in this town: telling a story that alerts the public to a nascent problem, raising awareness and quite possibly helping to stem its spread (“The Next Crack Cocaine? No, Not Really,” 3/31). The Post’s headline was an interrogative, not an assertion that meth has reached crack cocaine proportions. Just because the city’s emergency rooms, jails, and courtrooms are not full of meth addicts and dealers does not mean that the drug is not being used in the community or that it’s not a problem. Perhaps Mr. Grim should spend a few weekends in some of the gay dance clubs where meth is everywhere. Or he could hang out for awhile on the various Web sites where local gay men are obsessively connecting to “party ’n’ play.” These people are getting their meth somewhere. Just because the police aren’t reporting more meth lab seizures doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not out there; maybe the police can’t find them.
At Whitman-Walker Clinic, we’ve seen a 500 percent increase from 2000 to 2005 in the number of clients in our addictions-services program who report a crystal meth problem, often in connection with other drugs. And we have found that 85 percent of our addictions-services clients who used crystal meth are HIV-positive. Crystal meth is definitely a problem in the world of gay white men in Washington, and it is spreading to gay men of color.
Grim’s assertion that “the drug is not very addictive” also misses the point—if it’s even correct. The people we treat describe being so hooked by this drug that they have spent their entire savings, lost their jobs, ruined their relationships, and wound up with no friends other than fellow meth-heads. So what if there are some people who are able to do the drug once or twice and then walk away from it? Does that mean we should tell those people who come to us for help that they’re not really addicts and they should just get over it?
Thankfully, not all journalists follow Grim’s philosophy that a story isn’t worth reporting until the situation has become a crisis. Some journalists still believe part of their role is to inform the public in the hopes of averting tragedy.
Director of Communications and Public Affairs