One recovering addict believes methamphetamine has been able to fly under the radar, hiding under the increased attention to opioid use and deaths in the U.S.
"The first time I ever tried meth was to fit in," Bryan Lagassa told NBC 7 Investigates. "To meet this girl, actually."
That was when he was 15, living in the Southern California desert community of Joshua Tree.
From there, his life spiraled into a routine of using and stealing.
NBC 7 Investigates recorded a podcast episode of INSIGHT on San Diego's meth crisis. Listen below:
“You’re going to get into that lifestyle where you’re selling drugs, hiding from the police, you’re stealing. It’s this lifestyle that I fell in love with as much as the drugs to be honest,” he said.
He said he used meth casually through high school and while serving in the U.S. National Guard.
Now 49 years old, Lagassa is the Director of Operations at Boardwalk Recovery Center in Pacific Beach, where he makes a difference in the lives of many still struggling with drug addiction.
He knows what they're going through. Lagassa's drug of choice was methamphetamine.
Lagassa takes us through his efforts to get sober, a sobriety that lasted 11 months, until a relapse.
There are medications that can help block the effects of opioids, he said but none to block the effects of meth.
He describes falling off the wagon with a hit from an electrical cleaner aerosol can.
"I saw it in the house and the whole day it was calling my name, 'Bryan.' I knew it was there. I knew I could get high off it. I knew it would change the way I felt," he said.
Support from those in his community of recovering addicts, his family, friends and a commitment to treatment got him on the road to recovery.
He said he had to become “honest about what was going on inside, 30 years of running from pain. Slowly but surely change started to take place. Life had a reason that was not centered around me.”
He still suffers from physical damage to his body from his meth use. He has gotten professional help to fix his teeth and his liver is "a mess," as he describes it.
Still, given everything he's been through, he said there is hope.
"There’s a lot of work to be done…Getting sober was hard, but worth the rewards."