Phoenix, Arizona (AP)
Arizona officials are close to importing the Montana Meth Project’s gritty, in-your-face ad campaign against methamphetamine addiction.
The Montana Meth Project has become a national success story with the often-shocking content in its ads.
One billboard shows a grungy, dirty toilet with the words, “No one thinks they’ll lose their virginity here. Meth will change that.”
A TV spot shows a young man covered with scabs harassing people in a coin laundry and beating them up for loose change. At the end of the ad, the teen runs up to his pre-meth self and screams, “This wasn’t supposed to be your life!”
During April Arizona officials, including staff members from the governor’s office and the attorney general’s office, flew to Helena, Mont., to watch the latest round of TV spots and meet with software billionaire Thomas Siebel, whose deep pockets have fueled the Montana project.
“I just don’t think we have time to waste,” said Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard. “I don’t think there is hardly a family in Arizona that doesn’t have some tragedy associated with meth.”
Goddard said the goal is to have an Arizona Meth Project up and running by August.
And it couldn’t come too soon.
Last year in Arizona, 52,000 people used meth.
Nearly one in five children ages 12 to 17 have been offered meth, and surveys show that 65 percent of child-abuse and neglect cases in the state involve the drug.
In 2003, 42 percent of females booked into Maricopa County jail tested positive for the drug, and meth hospital admissions surged 229 percent during 2000 to 2004, according to a study by the University of Arizona.
“It’s absolutely brutal,” said Dr. Marc Matthews, director of the trauma unit at Maricopa Medical Center. “The drug is almost maniacal. Once it gets hold of you, that’s it.”
In Montana, the multimillion-dollar ad campaign, known as “Not Even Once,” has saturated the airwaves, helping to reduce meth use among teens by as much as 30 percent.
Siebel donated more than $6 million to launch the program in August. He has not taken government money and does not want any politicians’ names or faces on the ads.
To stretch the campaign, the project received a dollar-for-dollar match from television and radio station advertising. Arizona leaders want to have the same deal with local media outlets.
It will take about $5.7 million to cover about 70 percent of the Arizona market for one year, Goddard estimated. Siebel would let Arizona use the ads from his Montana campaign, but he does not want the content changed or tweaked in any way.
Goddard told Siebel in a letter that it would be helpful to have some ads tailored to Arizona’s Indian tribes and Spanish-language radio.