Unfortunately families dealing with addiction at home is not uncommon. What makes crystal meth different is how extremely addictive the substance is and the permanent brain damage it causes over time.
Largely what makes crystal meth a ticking time bomb is how little people know about it. For many of us, our first introduction to meth is when a family member comes home with the addiction and as one woman who experienced this herself explains, by then it's usually too late.
Dr. Mary Holley remembers how curious her youngest brother, Jim, was as a child, but in time, his curiosity got the better of him.
Holley says, "My brother was 22 when he got hooked on crystal. At his 22nd birthday party, he went to a party and his girlfriend turned him on to it. It was steadily downhill from there."
Holley adds, "I took him to a psychiatrist. They diagnosed him as paranoid schizophrenic."
Jim went to therapy and rehab. After ten months, he stopped having hallucinations and started showing real progress. Then on the first day of getting a new job in the area, he met a meth dealer and started using again. His symptoms returned. After attempting to commit suicide, Mary checked him into the hospital, hoping Jim would sign the papers necessary to stay admitted for more treatment, but he wouldn't.
Holley recalls what was going through Jim's mind. She says, "The drug dealers were in the hospital. They could see through the walls. They could read his mind. And so he checked out and three weeks later he found a gun at my uncle's house and blew his brains out."
Dr. Holley wanted to walk away from the horror, but by then, meth had infested her community. As an obstetrician, some of her patients, pregnant women, showed her the true cancer of crystal meth addiction.
Holley explains, "The child is hungry, he's tired, he's whiney, he crying. Give him some crystal and he'll shut up and go play with his toys for a few days. They use the drug as a chemical babysitter."
Dr. Holley drew from her medical and science background and began researching crystal meth. Scans of users' heads tell the whole story. While crystal meth creates an incredible sense of euphoria, the substance literally eats away at the brain.
Holley says, "When you put those pictures up and explain them and teach people how to understand a brain scan, they are floored and appalled at what this drug does to the human brain. And they should be."
Dr. Holley took her research and transformed it to a non-profit outreach program called Mothers Against Meth-Amphetamine. What began as a few articles in the Arab Tribune has grown an international audience. Holley travels to prisons and churches to offer hope to recovering addicts, but more importantly, to teach people about the hazards of meth before they make the fatal mistake of trying it.
Holley adds, "The real money is in prevention. If we can keep somebody from getting addicted in the first place that's going to save us many thousands of dollars in rehabilitation, child care, crime, and law enforcement, all the costs that go into a meth addiction."
Dr. Holley launched Mothers Against Meth-Amphetamine while she was still working full-time in her medical practice. She continues to run the organization now on solely on donations and the sales of her book and videos she's produced.
Holley's outreach is growing in popularity. Some schools across the country are using her book as required reading in health classes. People as far away as South Africa are taking her research and sharing it with their communities, a reminder of that crystal meth is truly a global epidemic.