Must Love Meth

A local drug-testing company is desperately seeking tweekers.

Despite the talk of rising unemployment, Riptide has found work for members of South Florida's lighter-fluid-and-Drano-ingesting set.

Coral Gables pharmaceutical outfit Catalyst is developing Vigabatrin, an anticonvulsive medication used in Europe to combat cocaine and meth addiction. The company touts it as the first effective addiction-killer for those drugs and is now testing it on addicts across the nation.

For the city that made anthill-size cocaine mounds a must-have desk accessory, this should come as no surprise: The testers have not had a problem recruiting devil's dandruff enthusiasts. "For the cocaine studies, we've been turning the volunteers away," says Scott Segal, president of the Segal Institute for Clinical Research, the North Miami facility that's handling Vigabatrin's South Florida testing. He estimates they've gathered data from 30 coke addicts as the testing hits its final phases.

But, for the meth side of the research, they haven't been able to scare up a single test subject. Riptide visited the testing facility on NE 125th Street to get the scoop from Segal.

The problem, he says, isn't that South Florida is blissfully free of the epidemic; it's that our dominant meth-using population is gay male South Beach revelers, a tough bunch to test. "Their pattern of use — being a clubber — is not conducive to testing," he explains. "They may be addicted to meth, but it's part of the lifestyle, so they don't consider it a bad thing. And they're on so many other drugs — Special K or Ecstasy — that we can't use them. In order to qualify for a clinical trial, you can only be using one drug: meth."

For others, an environment of dire secrecy keeps them from enrolling. "A lot of these gay men haven't come out, and they might have wives," says Patrick Manos, study coordinator. "It's a very difficult world to tap into."

So listen up, industrious fellow stirring a steaming vat of farming chemicals in the trunk of his 1988 Caravelle: Segal gives its volunteers $668 for 24 weeks of outpatient testing. Not a fortune, but where else can a meth addict get paid just to be himself?

 
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