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Posts Tagged ‘Speed Kills’

Why am I dedicating a series of blogs to an examination of The London Free Press crystal meth series, On Thin Ice, almost four years after its publication? The catalyst was an Op-Ed column—Drugs Won the War—in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof. Kristof wrote: “This year marks the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s start of the war on drugs, and it now appears that drugs have won.” He goes on to argue: “…we need to be less ideological and more empirical in figuring out what works in combating America’s drug problem.”

I don’t believe waving the white flag is what’s being suggested. I believe Kristof is looking for a more reasoned approach to the drug problem, an approach that feels like it is comes from a mature, clear thinking, adult. (With the death of Walter Cronkite, the Huffington Post reposted some of Cronkites blogs written for the Internet newsgather. Read Cronkite’s informed views in a piece he called, “Telling the Truth About the War on Drugs.”)

Faces of Meth

Faces of Meth

When the media stumbled en masse onto the “crystal meth epidemic,” everyone knew what the story would say, “Speed kills!” To prove this unarguable truth many media outlets ran the pictures of meth abusers obtained from The Faces of Meth website run by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, of Portland, Oregon.

The London Free Press was no different, except that they did not make it clear that the before meth and the after meth pictures running in colour on a front page in October 2005 were not shot in London—nor even in Toronto.

I expect The Free Press was hoping to win awards in the annual journalism competitions with this series. Many called these Faces of Meth pictures propaganda, but not The Free Press. (Kate Dubinski delivered a rich, complex story looking at Krista, a real meth abuser living in London. That story shines in this otherwise cliche-steeped series. And it shines when compared to dozens of other meth stories written around this time.)

Theresa Baxter

Theresa Baxter 3.5 year later and not 2.5 years later.

Who were these people on the front page on The Free Press? -people with their lives clearly ruined by crystal meth.

One was Theresa Baxter, far left, in her booking picture after her arrest  for identity theft and fraud. The next picture is Baxter 3 1/2 years later in another booking photo, this time for theft and drug possession. Reportedly, a former heroin user, Baxter began using meth to escape depression. She said it was cheaper. . . In the last mention of Baxter that I could find on the Internet, we learn that Baxter has founded Methamphetamine Addicts for Christ.

Joseph Harris after only 3 months of meth abuse.

Joseph Harris after only 3 months of meth abuse.

Another of the faces run by The Free Press is of Joseph Harris, right, who apparently disintegrated after only three months of meth abuse.

Do these photos illustrate the results of meth abuse or the results of living an abusive lifestyle?

The third face was that of Jennifer Lundgren. Lundgren’s second booking picture was taken 17 months after her original photo.

faces6

Jennifer Lundgren after 17 months of meth use.

Still healthy after 26 years of Meth use.

Healthy after more than two decades of Meth use.

We have a problem. These pictures contrast sharply with Krista, a London meth user for 26 years.

The user in the National Geographic does not look wasted.

The user in the National Geographic does not look wasted.



The National Geographic also jumped on the bandwagon, running a story on meth abuse. The image of a user they ran does not show a severely wasted individual. After the flack the National Geographic took for moving the pyramids, I don’t think they would run a fake picture of a meth user. This picture can be trusted, as can The London Free Press image.

I believe the Faces of Meth pictures show us not what crystal meth does to users but what the present approach, especially in the States, does to drug abusers.

The Faces of Meth are The Faces of  the Victims of the War on Drugs.

Addendum:

UK: Police Urge State-funded Prescription of Heroin to Addicts

In England, senior police officer, Howard Roberts, urged the UK to follow Holland and Switzerland’s lead and begin the state-funded prescription of heroin to addicts, in an effort to treat them and reduce crime. The program would cost an estimated £12,000 a year per addict, but proponents believe treatment would be cost-effective as users steal at least £45,000 worth of property each year to feed their addictions. Widespread trials of such programs in Holland and Switzerland show users turning away from crime to feed their habits when they were prescribed drugs. Story from IndependentOnline.

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