The Georgia Meth Project launched a statewide prevention campaign Monday designed to significantly reduce methamphetamine use.
Meth has rapidly become one of Georgia’s most critical public health and law enforcement challenges and is estimated to cost the state $1.3 billion in law enforcement, treatment, social services, and lost productivity. Georgia Meth Project Chairman Lee Shaw and Executive Director Jim Langford unveiled the Georgia Meth Project’s new public service messaging and community outreach campaign at an event at the Georgia State Capitol, where they were joined by U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, state Attorney General Thurbert Baker, state and community leaders, treatment and prevention experts, and local law enforcement officials.
“Methamphetamine is taking a severe toll on our criminal justice and social service systems,” Baker said. “Jurisdictions around the state are fighting a wave of rising crime, domestic violence, and child abuse and child deprivation driven by increases in meth abuse. We cannot afford to be complacent about this issue. With the launch of the Georgia Meth Project, we are taking a significant, proactive step to address this problem before it becomes the epidemic that has crippled so many other states.”
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, over the past five years, methamphetamine has become the fastest-growing drug problem in Atlanta, Dalton and Gainesville. Atlanta is consistently cited by the DEA as a strategic hub for drug-trafficking organizations, including Mexican drug cartels. As a result, the Atlanta metro region has seen the supply of meth increase.
“Once meth takes hold, it strains government resources and destroys the fabric of communities,” Isakson said. “But if we move quickly with a focus on prevention, as well as law enforcement and treatment, we can reverse the trend and prevent a generation of Georgians from ever trying meth. With today’s launch, we are creating a powerful public-private partnership that will enable us to reach that goal.”
The Georgia Meth Project is a large-scale, statewide prevention effort aimed at reducing meth use. Central to the program is a hard-hitting, research-based public messaging campaign that includes television, radio, print, billboard and Internet advertising to educate young people about the risks of meth use. The campaign takes a peer-to-peer approach and the radio ads feature real Georgia teens who poignantly describe their experiences with meth. The saturation-level media campaign, which began airing Monday, will reach 70 percent to 90 percent of teens, three to five times per week.
Georgia’s prevention program is based on the Meth Project model first launched in Montana in 2005. Since the initiation of the Montana Meth Project, the state has seen significant declines in methamphetamine use. In 2005, Montana ranked fifth in the nation for meth use. By 2009, the state ranked 39th. Meth use among teens dropped by 63 percent, and meth-related crimes declined 62 percent. In Arizona, which launched the Arizona Meth Project in 2007, teen methamphetamine use has dropped by more than 50 percent. The Meth Project has since expanded to Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois and Wyoming.
“The declines in meth use already seen in states like Montana, Arizona, and Idaho — which have had the Meth Project model in place for several years — clearly demonstrate how a comprehensive, integrated prevention campaign can have a significant impact,” Langford said. “By initiating this effort now, we believe Georgia can forestall a potential crisis.”
At Monday’s event, Georgia Meth Project officials also announced the results of the first Georgia Meth Use and Attitudes Survey. The benchmark study examines the attitudes that Georgia teens and young adults from across the state have toward methamphetamine. The survey found that 20 percent of teens and 34 percent of young adults report meth is easy to get. Despite the well-documented dangers associated with methamphetamine use, 35 percent of Georgia teens see little to no risk in trying meth. Fifty-eight percent said their parents have never spoken with their teen about meth.
“Meth is one of the most dangerous and powerfully addictive substances in existence,” said Neil Kaltenecker, executive director of the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse. “It is nearly unmatched in the severe physical and psychological effects on the user. Telling young people about the dangers of methamphetamine use is critical because the data clearly show that many of them are at risk of experimentation due to lack of education.”
The Georgia Meth Project’s ongoing, research-based advertising campaign will be complemented by statewide community outreach programs executed in concert with existing local coalitions.
The Georgia Meth Project was established through the support of a broad set of private foundations, corporations, and individuals from the across the state who are committed to fostering healthy communities, including Shaw Industries, Beaulieu of America, Inc., J&J Industries, Textile Rubber, Alan S. Lorberbaum Family Foundation, the Julian Saul Family, the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, Hamilton Health Care System, the Home Depot Foundation, and Cox Enterprises.
For more information, and to view the Georgia Meth Project ads, visit the Web site at www.georgiamethproject.org/Ads.