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Paying Meth Users To Stop? Former Addicts Say It Won't Always Work

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A potential new California bill could be a last-ditch effort to curb the state's growing methamphetamine problem, offering addicts vouchers or cash incentives to stop using.

Senate Bill 888 would expand treatment options that qualify for Medi-Cal to include programs that use vouchers or cash to motivate meth users to stay sober.

Mark Myers understands the risk with such a proposition. He started using drugs when he was 9 years old and spent 30 years struggling with addiction.

"My life had been crazy for a long time, in and out of jail, unemployable," Myers said. "I was an absent father."

Myers knows what it's like to lose everything while struggling with addiction, and so does Cyndi Giddings. Giddings said she used meth for 26 years.

"I lost my job, I lost my children," Giddings said. "I started using at the age of 13."

So when asked if a cash incentive would've helped, they both shared different perspectives and answers.

"It would have (helped)," Myers said. "I had nothing else, you know?"

Giddings said, "It wouldn't have worked for me where I was at in my life because I was homeless living in bushes. Giving me a little bit of money? It took removing me from my situation and placing me in residential treatment."

Giddings and Myers are both on their feet now. In fact, Giddings has a Masters's Degree and aims to help others fighting addiction. Myers is now a grandfather, working at the Sacramento Recovery House as a day counselor. While expanding a rewards program to stop using may or may not help every user, they both agree any effort is worth it.

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation's Positive Reinforcement Opportunity Project enlisted a similar program, giving LGBTQ men who used meth gift cards for staying sober. According to the foundation, the program proved to be highly effective leading to 63% of participants quitting completely and 19% reducing their use over one year.

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