Over the last few months, I have seen six strong and willing men enter into a drug treatment facility in order to stay off the drug that has taken control of their lives—meth. In all six cases the men were gay, isolated from their families in one way or another, had self-esteem issues and had lost control of their lives.
They came from both our area and across the country. Los Angeles, as it turns out, has a very well-deserved reputation for having and supporting a strong gay recovery community. Unfortunately, these six men, despite their ernest desire to get clean and stay clean, can and will have an uphill battle ahead of them. Of the millions of meth addicts who enter recovery annually, an estimated 93 percent relapse within the first year.
Medical professionals assert that a huge part of the relapse problem is the fact that when coming off of meth, the depression, low self-esteem and sense of not belonging reappear, but tenfold. Most times the actual physical manifestations of meth abuse can be healed or treated more quickly and effectively than the mental damage.
It used to be thought that the brain could not heal itself from meth abuse. That has been proven wrong. Indeed, in many cases, under the proper circumstances, the brain can heal itself completely. The hurdle, though, is that it may take up to two years for a person to ‘balance out’ mentally and stop having debilitating cravings.
Some doctors believe a method of treatment known as The Matrix Model—a kind of cognitive behavioral therapy—is the most successful plan for long-term sobriety from meth addiction. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, it includes one-on-one as well as intensive group therapy over a 16-week period. The CSAT argues that recovery rates for meth addicts using the Matrix Model can be as high as 50 to 60 percent.
I don’t claim to know this to be true, but I do believe in using every tool available to keep our gay brothers safe, sober and healthy. If this is effective for someone, then they should have access to it. There shouldn’t be a two-month wait. Sometimes those two months are just too long, and we lose another opportunity to keep someone safe.
I know the city of West Hollywood offers many treatment options—both in-house and outpatient—for substance abuse problems. Many times, these treatments are low-cost and no-cost depending on individual financial means.
For more information on how you or a loved one can be helped, please go to the city’s website at weho.org and search “Substance Abuse & Addiction Recovery” under the Social Services Tab.
Jimmy Palmieri is founder of the Tweakers Project, and serves as a West Hollywood Human Services Commissioner.