Former meth users come clean with the hard truth of staying so - - Columbia, South Carolina

Former meth users come clean with the hard truth of staying sober


More than 12 million Americans have tried methamphetamine and 1.5 million are regular users, according to federal statistics.

WIS sits down with two men, who are in different stages of getting clean.

They started for different reasons regardless of socioeconomic class gender or age

Methamphetamine users face a tremendous challenge when and if they try to regain their freedom from their addiction.

"Like the lawyer novels," said a man who wanted to be identified as George. "That's what I wanted my life to look like and that's how I pictured it."

For more than a decade, the former prosecutor had that life as a high power attorney but he was continually finding his days short of time.

"I noticed right away that when I did the drug, I wanted to study," George said. "I wanted to paint the house; I wanted to rebuild the engine of my car. I couldn't smoke meth in the bathroom of the courthouse, so I might snort it instead."

For Brion Holland, it was more about getting high for fun. He even has the memories of those days inked on his skin.

"Junior year on up, you know, Methamphetamine was just coming in and it was coming in strong," Holland said. "It was good, it was good, you could do anything, you could almost fly."

Drawn to crystal meth for different reasons, George and Brion said they found themselves hitting rock bottom and in trouble with the law.

"I wound up in Federal court, in Greenville South Carolina ... my dad and my mom put everything they had up to try and help me to get me out of jail ... they were poor hardworking people, just like everybody else, just barely getting by," George said. "I confessed to her (my partner) that I was using again and that pretty much ended the relationship. Losing my home, losing my relationship, I attempted to take my life."

Addiction psychiatrist Dr. Rebecca Payne said meth is one of the most powerful drugs she's worked with.

"Meth actually enters the brain cells, and can be neurotoxic, and lead to brain cell death," Payne said. "Things that would normally give them pleasure pale in comparison to the use of methamphetamine, so people continue to use to chase that initial high."

The profile of the average meth user in America may not surprise you, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are between 19-25 years old, white, working class and their average life span after becoming addicted is just 5-7 years.

"There's still some brain changes up to a year after the person has become abstinent…so haven't used for a year, there's still evidence of use," Payne said.

Statistics indicate long-term cure rates for methamphetamine addiction may be less than 10 percent.

Holland has almost a decade of sobriety behind him.

"All around there are people looking to reach out, they're just waiting for someone to reach back," Holland said. "I know when I grew up…bad things were kind of in the shadows. Today it's in your face. I think society has let its guard down so low."

While George is just starting to reassemble the pieces of his broken life.

"Ambitious, ready for the future, ready to conquer the world again," George said. "That's who I was all along, but meth took it from me. If I can stay clean this time I think I can eventually get it back."

There are currently no FDA approved medications to treat methamphetamine addiction.

The most common treatment involves talk therapy.

If you or someone you know is suffering from an addiction, call 1-800-943-0566.

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