A full spectrum of anti-crystal-meth groups, from the grassroots on up, turned out at Whitman-Walker Clinic for a local recognition of National Methamphetamine Awareness Day, Thursday, Nov. 30.
About 30 people gathered to hear from representatives of the gay community's D.C. Crystal Meth Working Group, the Metropolitan Police Department's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU), the office of the United States attorney for the District of Columbia, and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Following a few words from clinic CEO Donald Blanchon and U.S. Attorney for D.C. Jeffrey Taylor, the bulk of the presentation fell to DEA Richmond Special Agent Mark James.
While D.C.'s experience with crystal methamphetamine has been dealing with a drug that is primarily a ''club drug'' within the gay-male community, this highly addictive and dangerous stimulant is easily as popular, if not more so, among more rural Americans looking for an inexpensive and easily accessible high, according to federal studies. A Power Point presentation James offered the audience reflected that second front in the fight against ''tina.''
Considering the setting -- a clinic borne of sexual health concerns of the gay male community -- the presentation bordered on the surreal. Images of young children abused by meth addicts, or who accidentally ingested the drug themselves, flashed next to text chronicling the harms visited upon children by meth abuse.
A song, ''The Little Girl,'' accompanied the presentation, offering country-styled lyrics, including: ''Her parents never took the young girl to church/
Never spoke of His name/Never read His word/Two non-believers walking lost in this world... Her daddy drank all day and mommy did drugs.''
The images of children were followed by a less emotional presentation of the ins and outs of the hazardous production of crystal meth, which requires a number of highly toxic and unstable ingredients. James detailed lethal drug-making accidents, including a photo of one manufacturer dead on the floor of a motel room. He'd died from inhaling phosphine gas, a byproduct of production.
''This is the stuff they're dumping out in the neighborhood,'' warned James, pointing to the poisonous remains of these so-called ''clan'' -- or clandestine -- labs. ''If you can make sugar cookies, you can make dope.''
Sgt. Brett Parson, head of the GLLU, echoed James's warning, saying that although the district has been dealing with crystal-meth abuse, the city has not yet had to wrestle with environmentally toxic, potentially explosive, drug-manufacturing labs on a large scale.
''[W]e've been extremely lucky. But if [law-enforcement authorities] start squeezing in other areas of the country, [crystal-meth manufacturers] are going to come to us,'' said Parson.
The D.C. Crystal Meth Working Group is online at www.letstalkaboutmeth.org.