Surveys Show Methamphetamine Use and Abuse Is a Major Concern of WeHo Residents and Visitors

A review of data from a compilation of surveys conducted between 2014 and 2019 of more than 1,000 West Hollywood residents and visitors reveals that use and abuse of methamphetamine is a top concern.

The West Hollywood Project, an initiative funded by the L.A. County Department of Public Health to reduce drug and alcohol problems in West Hollywood, surveyed hundreds of people over the last several years at its alcohol- and drug- free community events #Boom and #Sizzle to gauge opinions about substance abuse in the city. 

The West Hollywood Project reports that “more than 67% of people surveyed at #Sizzle (part of the annual L.A. Pride Festival) and more than 50% of people who attended #Boom (a New Years Eve event) between 2014 and 2019 believe meth misuse is prevalent in West Hollywood.

“A majority of #Boom attendees believed open meth use in bars, clubs, and community events is the substance abuse harming West Hollywood the most,” said the West Hollywood Project.

The use of meth, an extremely addictive and dangerous drug popular among some members of the gay community, has been a major issue in West Hollywood for years. In 2016, WEHOville published a story about the ease with which residents could buy meth from dealers on Grindr, the gay sex hookup app headquartered in West Hollywood. Competing hookup apps took steps to block symbols and words that indicate someone is trying to sell a drug, while Grindr did not.

The concern has escalated in recent years because of nationwide news coverage of the deaths of two African-American men of meth overdoses in the Laurel Avenue apartment of Ed Buck, a white animal rights activist and donor to local and state Democratic party candidates.  Gemmel Moore was found dead in the 1234 N. Laurel Ave. apartment in July 2017 and Timothy Dean was found dead there in January of this year.  Buck last month was arrested by federal authorities and charged with providing drugs resulting in the deaths of Buck and Dean and three counts of distributing methamphetamine. His arrest followed a lengthy campaign by Moore’s mother and friends and activists. It occurred after another black man overdosed in his apartment in September but escaped and called 911 for help.

The City of West Hollywood has responded to concerns about meth addiction by appropriating money to APLA Health and the LA LGBT Center to procure fentanyl test strips. Those strips are offered free of charge to drug users so that they can test the illegal drugs they buy for the presence of fentanyl, an overdose of which can cause immediate death.

Screenshots of Grindr users dealing meth in and around West Hollywood in 2016

However, the city hasn’t worked to publicize the risk of methamphetamine use to those people – primarily young gay men – who often begin using the drug without being aware of its risks. In 2016, when WEHOville reported on the prevalence of online meth dealers, both Councilmembers John Duran and John D’Amico responded by noting that the city provides great recovery service for drug addicts. However, D’Amico also told WEHOville that perhaps the city should consider promoting “Info that could speak directly to those not yet in the grips of meth addiction — what is in the drug and in store for them if they become addicted.”

Other areas have done that. For example, the Montana Meth Project, launched in 2005, created a campaign aimed at 12- to 17-year-olds that described the destructive effect of methamphetamines on users and their communities in graphic detail through television ads, radio ads, and billboards.

In today’s announcement of the West Hollywood Project’s review of surveys about meth use, Mayor D’Amico again called out the city’s recovery services.

“The City of West Hollywood contracts with a multitude of substance abuse treatment providers to offer a full continuum of treatment, including harm reduction, inpatient medical detox, residential, transitional/sober living and Intensive outpatient programming to our community members struggling with addiction to crystal meth,“ D’Amico said. “Despite all that the city does to address the meth epidemic, there is a constant and undeniable level of meth use and abuse in the city.”

The city has partnered with the Safe West Hollywood Community Coalition (SWHCC), a branch of the West Hollywood Project comprised of residents, prevention professionals, and treatment providers, to develop a “meth report card” that will quantify key metrics like meth overdoses and mortality rates in West Hollywood. Medical service and rescue data provided monthly by the Los Angeles County Fire Department does not distinguish between problems caused by the use of illicit drugs and those caused by an accidental overdose of a prescribed medication.

The West Hollywood Project said its the meth report card will be released right before a “Meth Town Hall” scheduled for February. “SWHCC is partnering with the City to host the Meth Town Hall, where community leaders and activists, elected officials, nonprofit representatives, and concerned citizens can come together and discuss ways to combat meth use in West Hollywood. “

The SWWHC has focused on reducing the risk of immediate harm to meth users rather than educating the gay community of the drug’s potential risks. “The Coalition hosted a workshop in West Hollywood during the summer to train servers, bartenders, property managers, and other concerned community members, on how to use Narcan to reverse an overdose,” says the West Hollywood Project’s announcement of its review of surveys of drug concerns. “Narcan reverses the effects of opioids on the brain. It is increasingly used by police, first responders and ER doctors to revive overdose patients. More than 50 people were trained at the workshop and plans are underway to host more training events.”

The 7th annual #Boom alcohol- and drug-free New Year’s Eve party is scheduled for Dec. 31 from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., at the West Hollywood Auditorium, 647 N. San Vicente Blvd. The Meth Town Hall is scheduled for Feb. 12, 2020, from 5 to 10 p.m. at the West Hollywood City Council Chambers, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd.

  1. Jimmy, thank you for you usual insightful comments, and for putting things into perspective. You, of anyone, know what you are talking about. I’ve also learned from a friend, for those who do cocaine, that if testing strips are not available, a “poor man’s” test is to put the substance between your fingers and rub them together. If it turns to liquid, it hasn’t been cut with anything. I’m not sure if this is true, but for those who do it, this could save lives. I’d love your input on this, if you have any knowledge. I don’t know if this holds true for meth. Regardless, this is an epidemic that must be dealt with.

    1. Randy- thank you for addressing this. While I do not know the answer, I do have immediate concerns. If you have a cut or abrasion on your hand and inadvertently are rubbing fentanyl tainted drugs into it, I am seriously concerned that this could cause harm or death by getting it into your blood stream. The way dealers are cutting, selling and adding chems to coke, smack and meth, I am most comfortable with testing with fentanyl strips. Like the raves of the 90’s, when there would be a table testing ecstasy tabs, fentanyl strips or sticks will undoubtedly save some lives. I am pro harm reduction—damage control, all the way. Again Randy. thank you.

      1. Jimmy, thank you for your feedback. That is a valid point. However, I don’t know how practical it will be that people will be walking into parties and clubs with testing strips in their pockets, no matter how readily available we make them. They are also, maybe, a little complicated to use in a bar bathroom, for example. I’m not suggesting this in lieu of testing strips, but when a testing strip isn’t available (and lets face it, how many people carry those around?), it would be nice to know if there is another option.

        So if this is an option, I think people should know about it. Even if there is a chance that an open wound on one’s finger could cause death (which I think is an unlikely scenario).

  2. Jemmel Moore’s mother, LaTisha Nixon, spoke before the West Hollywood City Council on August 21, 2017, just weeks after her son’s death by an overdose of Meth at Ed Buck’s apartment. Mrs. Nixon said: “This meth situation is out of hand, and it needs to be addressed!”
    The city council’s reaction was “Thank you very much” and then turned their attention to climate change under Santa Monica boulevard. For the next two years, the Meth problem was barely mentioned at council meetings until the arrest of Buck and the Federal Indictments. In a recent YouTube video I did on Ed Buck, Mrs. Nixon’s words are heard:
    Her plea falls on deaf ears. The West Hollywood City Council did nothing except for Lindsey Horvath. Buck continued to operate his deadly Crystal Meth drug house on Laurel Avenue for the next two years. The city council seems to fluff every meeting with obscure politically correct social problems. They ignore that WEHO is H.Q. for the Grindr Meth connection, and WEHO is known around Southern California as a major source for Crystal Meth.

    1. If you think Mr. Bucks meth house was the first we have heard of meth you are mistaken. His case, albeit the one of the worst and most well known, is but one of thousands. Weho has dealt with meth problems for decades. The council is well aware, and has allotted millions of dollars for rehab, prevention, recovery spaces, sober events, town halls social marketing campaigns, video, etc etc. I wish with all of my heart, that Mr. Moore would have come to someone to help him. not hurt him. I just hope his death was not in vain, and that others will seek help not harm. Please see the link below in my last comment for assistance. Just as an FYI, and I mean no disrespect by saying this, but council, commissioners, and board members are bound by law (the Brown Act) not to speak to members of the public during public comment. I know it seems like we are ignoring people but we aren’t. It is as frustrating for us as it is for the public, but it is the law.

  3. Prevention and harm reduction are major concerns. APLA has a new social marketing campaign, funded by the city, that I hope will reach some folks. There is no easy answer. This city does more than most. After nearly 20 years as a city official, watching first hand, numbers, stats and people in the street, I can only say, that in my opinion , it is not better. I see it as the same or slightly worse. Fentanyl is the game changer though. It kills. Fast. In moments. This is no longer a question of doing 30, 60, 90. This is life and death. My advice for what it’s worth is, DON’T BUY OR USE DRUGS IN THE LA AREA. Consider them all tainted. If you decide to, PLEASE GET SOME FENATNYL TESTING STRIPS. They can tell you if your drugs have fentanyl in them. If they do, THROW THEM AWAY. The sticks are FREE WITH NO JUDGEMENT from the LALGBT center or APLA. This is not a time for using. It is a very dangerous time. Here is a link to some of our providers and partners. USE THEM. WE PAY THEM TO SERVE AND PROVIDE HELP.

    Also, as one of the original founders of #BOOM! and #SIZZLE I urge you to join the fun and attend sober events. I can promise, it is so much better than using. Friendships are made, people are happy and everyone becomes part of a Tribe. This problem takes a village, and Weho has enough caring people to be that village.

    1. Yes, let’s pay for strips to give out to drug users to find out if their dangerous illegal drugs contain a dangerous illegal drug.

      1. Yes let’s, it’s cheaper than saving them at emergency rooms, ambulance rides, police, etc. and it may end up saving lives. While you may have been being funny, I am not.

        1. I am not trying to be funny. I am making a point. Drug abuse is not solved and drug abusers are not helped by making it easier for them to abuse the drugs in the first place.

          1. my thank you was to “oh no” who seems to have an understanding of the human condition and disease of addiction.

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