Methamphetamine and Teens: The Deadliest Drug You've Never Heard Of
Kicking the Meth Habit
Katy Knutson was the last person that neighbors in her upscale Minneapolis suburb expected to become a drug addict. The petite high school junior was an honors student, a member of the varsity swim team, and a regular churchgoer. But when a friend turned her on to methamphetamine in late 2003, she quickly succumbed to the drug's viselike grip. "It made me feel like the most beautiful and powerful person in the world," says Katy, now 18. "My concentration at school shot up. I felt like I could walk through walls."
For two months, Katy went on a binge, snorting several lines of meth powder a day. The initial euphoric rush was invariably followed by a harrowing crash that left her irritable, depressed, and paranoid. After getting high she would stay awake nights, then sleep for hours, straight through meals (dropping from 115 to 92 pounds in the process). She began skipping school, avoiding church, and stealing money from her parents' wallets to buy more meth. As Katy's sweet personality turned caustic, her desperate parents, who'd learned she was hooked after a few weeks, tried to break the drug's hold. "We yelled, we bribed her with new clothes, we sent her to Alcoholics Anonymous," says Katy's mother, Moira Knutson, 47, a high-school aide. "Nothing worked."
Katy hit bottom on a frigid night in December 2003 when police found her wandering the streets in a light jacket, high and disoriented. The next day, her parents sent her to an out-of-town treatment facility, then to a group home for teenage girls -- three and a half months in all. Knutson and her husband, an administrator at a law firm, agonized over their decision. But Katy's addiction had pushed them to a breaking point. "We worried that she could die from meth," recalls Moira.
For Katy, kicking meth was as difficult as getting hooked had been easy. She endured body-racking tremors and endless insomnia. "I wanted one last hit to feel better," she recalls. Finally, last spring, after months of therapy, Katy moved back in with her parents, clear-eyed and drug-free. She recently graduated from Sobriety High, a school for student addicts in Edina, Minnesota, and will enroll next month at the College of St. Catherine, in St. Paul. She still attends a recovery program three nights a week to fortify her resolve. "It's a hard drug to let go of," Katy says. "But I feel like I've finally turned the corner." Those traumatic months, she says, "were hell -- for me and everyone around me."