Campaign targets young Hispanics in drive to prevent meth addiction
Instead of enjoying large Sunday family dinners and spoiling her grandson, Stella Mimms copes with the aftermath of having a 36-year-old son addicted to methamphetamine.
She raises her son’s child and accepts the fact that her other child refuses to speak to his brother, who was just released from jail in early September after suffering another relapse.
“This is not what I wanted at my age,” says Mimms, 55, who believes her son started using meth as a teenager. “It was very, very surprising because he had everything.”
Mimms is one of the many active parents in Arizona Chapter of The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, which recently launched its largest anti-meth campaign targeted toward the Hispanic community. This effort includes public service advertisements on radio, television and print media in both English and Spanish.
Today, Mimms spends time speaking to youth organizations about the trappings of the drug that has held her son in its grip, leaving the rest of her family to pick up the pieces.
This is a different path than the one she took years ago. Like the majority of Hispanic parents, Mimms never discussed drugs with her children.
“We thought it wouldn’t happen to us,” she says. “We never gave them cash for allowance. We didn’t know that meth is easier to get, that they could get it for free,” she says.
Mimms speaks lovingly when she describes the sober side of her son – the side that successfully completed rehab, got married, started a family and earned a good living while working at Intel.
Then she talks about the numerous times he promised to “get straight,” only to go back on meth. Her voice cracks when she recalls all the signs that she didn’t realize were symptoms.
“I have a loving and caring son. But when he was like that, he was mean, rude. If he slept all day, I’d close the door, try hard to be quiet. I thought he must be studying real hard,” Mimms says, choking up.
When the 2005 Partnership study showed Hispanic teens were twice more likely to try meth than their Anglo or Black peers, that is when the campaign’s concept was born, explains program marketing director Shelly Mowrey. The study also showed that just 49 percent of Hispanic teens thought trying meth once or twice was a great risk.
“Historically, Hispanics have lower drug use numbers, so it was a red flag for us,” she says.
Mowrey says that young adults ages 18-25 are most vulnerable because they are the demographic undergoing professional or personal pressures and are looking for an escape. Often, females take it to lose weight. Eventually, those euphoric moments turn into paranoia, aggression, nervousness and physical deterioration.
“It’s like taking the gas pedal to the floor. That’s what it does to your heart,” Mowrey says of the high that can last up to six or eight hours off one hit that can be bought for $7 to $10.
The reasons meth is not discussed as much among Hispanics range from the lack of information in Spanish to a lack of understanding the prevalence of the drug in their community. For information about the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, visit www.drugfree.org/az.