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Anti-meth video sent to high schools

Alabama high school students will soon see a graphic video filled with before and after photos that don’t follow the normal pattern of an ugly person becoming pretty.

The before pictures show attractive Alabamians with warm smiles. The after pictures show gaunt, severely wrinkled faces dotted with sores. The smiles have turned to frowns framing decaying teeth.

In most cases, 18 to 24 months passed between the before and after pictures. During those months, the Alabamians became addicted to methamphetamine.

“This is the most lethal drug — the most lethal anything — that these children and youth or any adult can take into their body,” said Sue Adams, who directs drug prevention efforts at the state Department of Education.

The Alabama District Attorney’s Association produced the video and is working with the department and the governor to distribute it to all high schools and some middle schools. Gov. Bob Riley previewed the video for the news media Thursday at the Capitol and recommended that schools show it and discuss it.

It’s nothing like the government-produced anti-marijuana film “Reefer Madness” that become a comical, campy hit in the 1970s. This video is a fast-paced documentary focusing on Alabamians who have gone to prison for using meth or committing crimes to support their meth habit.

There’s a middle-class accountant from Huntsville. There’s a high school baseball star. There’s a father and mother who lost custody of their children because of their drug habits.

For teenagers concerned about their appearance, the video explains how methamphetamine stops the flow of saliva in the mouth and fosters rapid tooth decay — a condition known as “meth mouth.”

Vivid close-ups drive home the point.

Riley said some people may consider the video too graphic and shocking. But he said, “That’s exactly what we have to do” to stop what he called “the most insidious, most destructive drug we’ve ever had in Alabama.”

The video is the second step in Alabama’s “Zero Meth” project, which has been funded by $1.3 million in federal and state funds. The project began with ads, billboards and a Web site designed to discourage people from ever trying meth.

District Attorney Michael Jackson of Selma said district attorneys decided to produce a video for the second step because teenagers respond to videos better than lectures from adults.

District Attorney Jimmie Harp of Gadsden agreed the video is powerful.

“It is one of the most provocative and I think gritty things a child that age is going to see,” he said. “I think it drives a message home.”