By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Barb neared what she considered the point of no return in late 1995. She contacted her mother--a businesswoman based much of the time in Hong Kong--and begged for help. Her mother flew back to the States, and tended to Barb's rehabilitation in the Chicago area.
She says she had a recurring meth-related nightmare after she quit using--a phenomenon common to many recovering addicts:
"There was this meth dealer in a black mask tugging at me from one side, and my mom was tugging at me from the other. I'd wake up before I found out which one got me."
Before she returned to Arizona last year, a friend from Tempe mailed her some meth: "I had one of those decisions to make, didn't I? I called my mom, and she came by and we flushed it down the toilet together. It was like watching a part of my life disappearing, a bad part of my life."
Barb completed her undergraduate degree, and now is attending graduate school at ASU, again focusing on psychology. Meth-free, she says, for almost two years, Barb is still trying to understand why she became a tweaker.
"I'm interested in the mind and what makes it tick," she says. "I don't know why one person becomes a drug fiend and another doesn't, or why one person commits murder and another doesn't. I want to get healthy enough where I don't have to think about my own stuff. I want to be able to help other people with their stuff."
It's not the fuzzy fuchsia pants that give Scotty away, or the spiky blond hair. It's the pacifier. He's sucking on it for the same reason many tweakers chew gum--to keep from grinding his teeth.
"I hate the jaw thing," he says.
A well-publicized survey released in September by the Washington, D.C., think tank Drug Strategies said almost one in five Arizona high school students claim they've tried meth.
Scotty, 17, is one of them.
Standing in the outdoor courtyard at a Phoenix rave--an all-night, all-ages dance party with electronic music and multimedia visual displays--the Scottsdale high school senior twitches in time with a drum machine beat.
Not all ravers are tweakers--but more are now than ever before. The traditional rave drug is MDMA, or Ecstasy, a chemical cousin of methamphetamine that produces a less powerful energy boost but a more powerful sense of euphoria. Ecstasy also produces strong feelings of empathy, and is known as a "love drug," a reputation meth does not share.
Coming down on Ecstasy is cake compared to a meth crash. But Ecstasy is far more expensive than meth ($20-$25 per hit in the Valley), and the high lasts only three or four hours. As a result, in cities where methamphetamine use is epidemic--Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco--more and more ravers who use drugs are converting to meth.
Meth's rapid rise in rave culture has paralleled the rise of faster, darker subgenres of electronic dance music collectively called "hard core." Now, just as meth is rivaling Ecstasy, hard-core is rivaling "old school" rave music, which also is upbeat, but smooth and flowery by comparison.
Tweak has become a dividing force in rave culture: Many nontweaking ravers point to meth as a sign that their Utopian-minded subculture is falling from grace, just as meth dragged down "hippie"-era San Francisco.
Two large raves were held in the Valley on the night New Times first spoke with Scotty. The one in the East Valley was called Recess. Scotty attended Apocalypse, where the headline entertainer was DJ Speedy, out of Vegas.
Scotty pulls out his pacifier to field questions, but frequently repeats the first word of a sentence several times, or abandons a response halfway and starts over. When he's done, he replaces the pacifier and resumes his gnawing.
He says he first tried meth in the fall of 1996, and didn't like it. Scotty snorted three tiny lines with high school friends and went to a party. Instead of having fun, he couldn't stop feeling the inside of his mouth: "I had like this white guck all over my tongue."
The next time was "way better." It started on a Friday night last January or February, when he snorted two lines of what may have been "glass" (an extremely pure, potent form of methamphetamine). Scotty was wired for about 35 hours, most of it pleasantly intense.
"I hung out with friends a lot," he recalls. "I played a lot of Sega, and I skateboarded."
He fell asleep early Sunday morning and awoke five hours later, lightly toasted, but still in one piece. By Monday morning, he says he felt "totally normal."
Since then, Scotty says, he's been tweaking two or three times a month, almost always on weekends. His parents are divorced, and he lives with his father, whom he is certain has no idea he uses meth.
"It's not like being drunk, where you have coordination problems. Just wear tinted glasses, and remember to speak slowly and keep track of the fact that your mind is moving a lot faster than anyone else's, and you won't have any problems."