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Students Help Launch Anti-Meth Effort

Bonner County Daily Bee, Feb. 23, 2011

SANDPOINT — High school students across the state pledged "not even once" Tuesday afternoon as the Idaho Meth Project introduced a new collection of advertisements.

Nationally famous for graphic commercials portraying the harsh consequences of meth addiction, the project is distributing its fourth wave of print, radio, TV and Internet advertisements. Project officials held a ceremony commemorating the new ads at Riverstone International School in Boise. Videoconference technology from the Idaho Education Network allowed students from Sandpoint High School to participate in the presentation along with peers from Rigby High School in Rigby and Canyon Ridge High School in Twin Falls.

"The video conference went very smoothly," IT supervisor Christian Boone said. "It was a good opportunity for all the students to share their comments on the advertisements."

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and first lady Lori Otter introduced the presentation and emphasized the importance of meth awareness. They also oversaw a haiku contest that allowed finalist poets from each school to read his or her submission. Despite a solid showing from Sandpoint's Barry Wilson, Tori Fullmer of Rigby High School took top prize.

Between haiku readings, the Otters screened the Meth Project TV spots and asked which ads the students found most effective. According to Boone, Sandpoint students identified the "O.D." and "Sisters" spots, each portraying teenagers caught in horrific situations with the tagline "this isn't normal, but on meth it is," as the strongest examples.

Critically acclaimed filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu, famous for movies like "Babel" and "Amores Perros," directed the fourth wave of advertisements. That selection continued the project's tradition of hiring internationally respected artists. Darren Aronofsky helmed the previous wave of ads, an appropriate selection given his scare-the-audience-straight drug drama "Requiem for a Dream."

"The Meth Project looks for talent like that to take the message of the campaign and frame it in that high quality presentation," Idaho Meth Project Executive Director Megan Ronk said.

A compelling artistic vision is an essential weapon in an uphill battle for the campaign, Ronk said. Described by many law enforcement officials as a national epidemic, meth addiction is easily acquired and results in severe health and psychological problems.

"Recent data from the U.S. Justice Department is cause for concern — the supply of meth is at its highest level, highest purity, and lowest cost in five years," Otter said. "With supply increasing, it is critical that we continue to reduce demand for this extremely dangerous drug."

Fortunately, data also suggests that the Idaho Meth Project has had a positive impact, Otter added.

"The Idaho Meth Project's campaign has had a tremendous impact on Idaho's teens," he said. "Thanks to the Idaho Meth Project and the concerted efforts of law enforcement and treatment professionals, we saw teen meth use in Idaho drop by 52 percent from 2007 to 2009."