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Faces of meth

How three men are fighting the little white powder

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But Brian needed more subjects. And people would be more inclined to talk if they were paid. In April, Brian, working with Kirk, received a $10,000 grant through Georgia State's Mentor Program for the interviews. The grant went into affect July 1. The money allows Brian to offer $25 per participant. In late June, Brian and his research team began advertising: "Would you like to get paid $25 for completing an anonymous research study sponsored by Georgia State University?"

 

Britt was 25 when he moved back in with his parents after his failed attempt at rehab. His mother and father were crushed. It was a double whammy: Their son was gay, and a drug addict. "It was the worst two things I could've been, other than a pedophile," Britt says.

He tried an outpatient recovery program in Moultrie but couldn't stay sober. Because he didn't have a job and had no money saved up, he filed for bankruptcy.

The following year he moved to Atlanta. He wanted to get his pharmacy license in Georgia. The pharmacy board denied him in 1991 because of his past problems, which he was required to disclose. Upon being turned down, his sponsor from the Pharmacists Recovery Network recommended he go back into treatment. Perhaps the board would reinstate his license if they saw an effort to stay clean.

So Britt enrolled in Talbott Recovery Campus, just outside Atlanta. He stayed in the inpatient, $22,000 program, paid for by his parents, for five months. It was a comfortable and serene setting (Jeb Bush sent his daughter there) where Britt was able to skirt around his addiction. The counselors recommended he go to St. Jude's, because he obviously needed a different experience.

Located off Renaissance Parkway, St. Jude's treats more than 1,600 addicts and is free for Fulton County residents. It's a melting pot of detox participants; unlike at Talbott, Britt was sleeping next to homeless people. For seven months, he had to scrub toilets, wash dishes and mop floors, in addition to holding a full-time job. And he began taking responsibility for his disease.

Based on his two rehab stints, the pharmacy board reinstated his license in 1992.

Then he met Mark. He was at the Armory, a gay club in Midtown known for disco and drag shows. Mark was 6 feet tall, muscular, with dark hair. Britt found him highly attractive. They started dating. Britt told him about his problem. Mark, too, had a problem. He drank every day. But Britt stayed sober, unaffected by Mark's drinking - until the trip to Key West in 1996.

On the way to the Keys, Britt and Mark stopped in Tampa at a friend's house. Britt wanted to fit in with his boyfriend and his friends. He'd been good; he should reward himself. He asked for a glass of wine.

When they returned from Key West, Britt and Mark started frequenting Backstreet. Britt occasionally would pop Ecstasy or do some acid. Then his drug use progressed. He used Special K, GHB and meth. He could get his hands on Tina pretty easily now, unlike in the early '90s. He could do a bump and go to work the next day and be OK. His weekends got longer and longer. His bank account ebbed. A gram of the most potent ice cost about $240.

He became a daily user. He'd go through an eight ball every two days - roughly $2,000 a week. He was late to open the drugstore where he worked. Customers complained. Then his boss found drugs missing. Britt was fired.

He got in touch with a friend who also was a pharmacist and meth user. They decided to open an independent drug store in Midtown that specialized in HIV treatment.

Britt popped pills or injected meth every hour. His relationship with Mark was on the rocks. He cheated. Nothing mattered anymore - not his family or friends, not his health or his job. Just meth and getting it.

In 1999, Britt and his partner sold their pharmacy to CVS. He continued on as a CVS employee, despite the $700,000 he claims he made from the sale. It was the worst possible good fortune. Because of the money, he didn't have to stop using. He could use even more. He'd stay up for three days at a time, sleep for 12 hours and repeat the routine. Suspicions rose at work. He was fired, again, and lost his license for the second time.

He holed up in his Midtown condo for a month. He didn't return phone calls. His mother came to Atlanta and begged him to go back to treatment. He said he didn't want to. All he wanted was to stay home and do meth.

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