- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 2, 2009

ST. LOUIS (AP) | Josh Palmer’s story has played out countless times here in the heart of meth country. Introduced to methamphetamine as a teenager, he soon became addicted, couldn’t keep a job, lost his house, lost his family.

Today, he’s turned his life around, so much that he’s part of a national anti-meth marketing campaign that was launched Tuesday in St. Louis.

“At one time in my life I thought everybody was doing dope because everybody I knew was,” Mr. Palmer, 32, said after a news conference at St. Louis City Hall. “I found out there was another world out there. And I like it a lot better.”

Drug czar Gil Kerlikowske was on hand Tuesday to launch the $9 million ad campaign. Missouri is among the states worst-affected by methamphetamine addiction, and has ranked first in the nation for years in meth lab raids and seizures. Wyoming, Arkansas and Nevada were the top three states as far as per capita usage of meth among people ages 18 to 25 in a 2007 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The new campaign focuses on a message of hope — that meth addiction can be overcome.

The ad blitz runs through November and will be run in newspapers, online and on TV, radio, billboards and even gas stations. It focuses on the 16 states with the worst meth problems — Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky and Nebraska in the Midwest and Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Wyoming, Arizona and New Mexico in the West. Anti-meth radio and Web ads will run nationally.

“Despite the overall decline in meth usage across the country, we still have work to do,” Mr. Kerlikowske said. “This drug leaves a path of destruction that affects individuals, families and entire communities.”

The ads focus on prevention and provide information to meth users and their families seeking recovery services. They target people ages 18 to 34, the age group most likely to use the drug.

“Meth is literally stealing the lives of people across the state, specifically young people,” Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said.

Mr. Kerlikowske’s office cited a 2007 survey that found more than 5 percent of Americans age 12 or older had tried meth at least once, and that an estimated 529,000 Americans had used meth in the past month.

Mr. Palmer, of Malden, kicked his habit about five years ago, thanks in large part to a treatment program mandated through the Dunklin County Drug Court. He now works as a drug counselor at a treatment facility.

Mr. Palmer said he first used marijuana and drank beer at age 13. He tried meth at 17 and quickly became addicted to the point where he became a maker as well as a user.

He lost several jobs because of his drug use, then lost his young children when the state removed them because both Mr. Palmer and his wife were on meth. The children were eventually returned, but only after Mr. Palmer hit bottom and sought help.

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