February 28, 2004 - The Daily Telegraph (UK)

The Trailer Trash Drug Takes Hold Of Hollywood

Crystal Meth, America's "Trailer Trash Drug", Is Suddenly Everywhere

By Oliver Poole

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The party was just getting going. It was 2am, the time they throw you out of bars in Los Angeles, and those looking for more fun had started to arrive at a house in the Hollywood Hills.

Few seemed dulled by the alcohol they had already consumed and it was clear why. Little plastic bags were being thrown on top of table tops, their contents dirty white crystals, the flakes far bulkier than the powdered cocaine that had become an all too familiar sight at any LA event with its inevitable gaggle of talkative coke addicts.

This was crystal meth, the latest drug to sweep through Hollywood's entertainment industry and draw with it an ever-expanding band of adherents loving its long-lasting high, weight-losing side-effects and - most depressingly of all - the knowledge that they were doing the latest cool thing, whatever the catastrophic effect it would have on their bodies.

Police are warning of an epidemic, one they have traced back to the middle of last year when Mexican drug lords in the border town of Tijuana moved their meth factories north to start churning out cheap supplies for America's Golden State.

Before then meth was still a joke. It was the "trailer trash drug", the intoxicant of choice of America's white urban poor - cheap and able to be brewed up from a mixture of cheap chemicals ( primarily fertilisers ) in people's baths. A "meth head" was a redneck whose teeth had fallen out.

But no longer. It was suddenly available everywhere and it is the fashionista who have embraced it - producers, agents, writers, actors - many for the most base of reasons: that it is something new.

One way to trace fashionable substance abuse in Hollywood is what is favoured in the films: heroin in the mid-1990s with The Basketball Diaries and Trainspotting, then ecstasy by the Millennium. Now it's crystal meth in Mickey Rourke's Spun and Val Kilmer's The Salton Sea.

Police say 70 per cent of the meth seized in the US now comes from California. David Foerster, of the substance abuse body the Foerster Group, says that in the past year he has placed several Hollywood luminaries in rehab and warns: "In the past 18 months the problem has gone from epidemic to pandemic."

At first, crystal methamphetamine increases productivity and elicits rapid euphoria, enabling the user to feel they can finish that script even if they have been up all night. The main high may only last six to 10 hours but it takes almost seven appetite-suppressing days for the final effects to wear off ( thinness being an added virtue in this most image-conscious of cities ).

The down side is at least one in seven get addicted - physically not just emotionally - and it quickly triggers a descent into the psychotic. It alters the dopamine in the brain, permanently changing a person's decision-making system. It is no accident that it got the name "trailer trash drug" as it pulls people into the gutter.

I had first seen it in Hong Kong when, just after the handover to China, factories in Shenzhen started flooding the territory. The expat ecstasy kids became addicts of crystal meth, or ice as it was called there, and in six months most were being sent home.

It is too new here for people to have fully realised the dangers. Feeling like an old man, I told those at the party it was bad news but they insisted they had it under control. "Sex on meth is the best," one girl told me before admitting: "I do know people addicted but no drugs have caught me before, so why should this one?"

She should talk to Jenny Rowe who last month drove her 22-year-old daughter Jasmine to Arizona to put her in her brother's home in the hope it would clean her out and stop her thieving.

"It destroys lives," she said. "It destroyed my family and now it's infected Hollywood. And Hollywood creates trends. It determines what is cool. They will be smoking meth across the country soon. Then watch out for London because it's going to start being seen as cool there too. That's fashion for you and trends start here.

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