breaking the cycle

Hollywood couple donate $250k to help gay men in LA tackle their meth use

A depressed man
Posed by model (Photo: Shutterstock)

A major donation to a health provider in Los Angeles will help fight meth use among gay men.

APLA health (which began life in the early 80s as AIDS Project Los Angeles) announced it’s received a donation of $250,000 specifically to help fund its ‘Party Wise’ harm-reduction scheme.

‘Party Wise’ is specifically aimed at gay and bi men in Los Angeles who use crystal meth. The donation comes from The Murray/Reese Foundation.

Meth use has risen dramatically in recent years, particularly during the pandemic. In Los Angeles, meth overdose deaths increased 77% from March to December 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

The Reese/Murray Foundation

Reality TV producer Jonathan Murray (The Real World and Road Rules), and partner Harvey Reese are the couple behind the Murray/Reese Foundation. The men have been together since 1992.

In a statement, the couple said, “Too many promising gay men’s lives are being destroyed by meth. We hope that this additional support of the Party Wise program at APLA Health will put many of those lives back on track. APLA Health has the experience, competence, and compassion to design and effectuate this program to have a profound impact on the Los Angeles community.”

Besides helping fight meth addiction, the men have also worked to create more opportunities for those with disabilities. Last year, Variety reported they made a $1.1million donation to boost training for disabled people behind the camera in the film and movie industry. Other organizations to benefit from their donations include The Los Angeles LGBT Center, Project Angel Food, GLAAD, and The Trevor Project, among others.

Thanks to the donation, APLA Health says it will expand the Party Wise scheme to address the increased use of meth, associated HIV infections, and overdoses. It will also launch a digital advertising and awareness campaign via online dating apps.

“We are beyond thrilled for this generous funding from The Murray/Reese Foundation; their support will enable us to significantly expand our efforts to provide much-needed services to address this rapidly growing problem,” said Craig E. Thompson, CEO of APLA Health, in a statement.

Crystal meth (methamphetamine) is part of the amphetamine family. It typically makes users feel very awake, alert, high and exhilarated. It lowers inhibitions, especially concerning sex, and will typically make you feel super horny.

However, it can also make you feel agitated, paranoid and confused – to the point of psychosis. It raises the heart rate and blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart attack. You will probably have trouble getting an erection, despite feeling very aroused.

As its effects can last for so long, you can forget to take HIV treatment or PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis). You may go for long periods without eating or sleeping.

Related: Why queer people are stocking up on this life-saving nasal spray for drug overdoses

Why are so many people overdosing on meth?

The overdose risk comes primarily from mixing the drug with alcohol or other drugs. If you choose to inject it, that can also bring a host of other problems, especially if you share needles.

As a drug, it is highly addictive.

The rise in overdose deaths in Los Angeles has been dramatic. Terry Smith, Director of Sexual Health and HIV Prevention Services at APLA, says a major factor is the fact meth is increasingly laced with Fentanyl. Because of this, he thinks the 2021 statistics maybe even worse. It’s also why APLA encourages people to test their meth with Fentanyl strips, which can tell users if their drug contains the opioid.

Smith told Queerty this big donation will really help the ‘Party Wise’ program.

“We really want to address the party and play scene, those guys who are often what we call weekend warriors. They might start off on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and it becomes a slow slide into Friday becomes Thursday … Sunday becomes Monday, then Tuesday. And then they find themselves in the midst of this addiction that happens quickly.

Related: 7 signs your drinking may have gotten out of control in the pandemic

Party Wise aims to take a non-judgemental approach to help crystal meth users. It encourages them to look at the impact meth is having on their life. The aim is to help them make choices to reduce the negative consequences.

“What we’re trying to do is raise people’s awareness,” says Smith. “‘Hey, have you looked at your life since you started this whole thing. Are you seeing changes in your relationship? Are you getting into problems at work?’ So it’s not like, ‘Don’t use!’ It’s more about, let’s be mindful about the use.”

Smith says the money will help develop support groups for users, an intensive intervention program of workshops for those serious about wanting to stop, plus a social marketing campaign to further raise awareness.

You can find out more about the ‘Party Wise’ program via the APLA Health website.