Art Campaign Tries to Educate Teens About the Dangers of Meth

By John Lavitt 03/27/14

Adolescents participating in Hawaii’s ‘Spray Away Meth’ campaign use street art to show how crystal meth has affected their lives and communities.

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The Spray Away Meth art campaign in Hawaii is an art campaign designed to keep teens from ever trying crystal meth. The three-island awareness project has traveled to Maui, Hawaii Island, and Oahu, speaking to kids on all of the islands. Spearheaded by East3, a local artist and youth mentor, the goal of the campaign is to reach out to the kids in a way that they will understand and motivate them to take a stand against crystal meth in their communities.

“There is a serious problem on all islands and I am hoping that the art can bridge the message they have which is ‘Not even once,’” East3 said. According to the Hawai'i Meth Project, the island state has the nation’s highest rate of meth use in the workplace. In addition, 20 percent of local teens say they know someone who is using the drug. Since kids have access to meth at such an early age, East3 knew the only way to reach them was to go directly to them.

Initiated in March of 2013 with the help of three students on Kauai, East3's project compels kids to paint an anti-drug mural at Kauai High School as part of their senior project. In addition, East3 held painting and anti-meth workshops for close to 40 teens. “The kids showed up in droves and they loved learning how to do this message in a way that they could take back to their own schools, to their own families, to their own clubhouses,” said David Earles, executive director of the Hawai'i Meth Project.

What is so fascinating is how the kids responded with almost a visceral negativity towards the usage of crystal meth in their communities. “It’s a very disgusting drug once you get into it, and these kids can express that visually," Earles said. "Kids are moving faster than us adults can keep up with.”

Once considered vandalism, the street art movement in Hawaii that began in the 1980s has now evolved into a vehicle for expression and education for the younger generation in the battle against addiction and abuse. “Art is inspirational, art is expression,” said East3. “It’s freedom, so when you put together something that speaks to them in their language, it’s very powerful.”

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.