Former San Francisco meth lord speaks out on substance abuse in the gay community

In 2015, Jason Yamas was a 29-year-old multimedia producer working for a Grammy Award-winning artist. But the following year, life as he knew it began to deteriorate.

In January 2016, he turned to meth when he couldn’t get his usual Adderall prescription. Within a year, he had spiraled into meth and GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) addiction, sabotaging his artistic career and becoming one of the top suppliers of illegal drugs to San Francisco’s predominantly gay “party and play” subculture.

“I quickly, stupidly, became the talk of the town,” he said. “I was the biggest crystal meth supplier in San Francisco’s queer community.”

He operated in pounds of meth and gallons of GHB at a time, which he referred to as “liquid gold” because of how valuable it was. At his peak, Yamas said, he was bringing in $15,000 to $20,000 in profit a week, selling 15 pounds of meth and four gallons of GHB.

The “party and play” or “chemsex” subculture — which revolves around meth, GHB and sex — has carved a deep trail of addiction into LGBTQ communities around the world, as NBC News previously reported.

Jason Yamas’ memoir, “Tweakerworld,” debuts March 7.The unnamed press

Despite efforts to raise awareness, the problem only appears to be getting worse as meth-related overdose rates continue to rise in the US

According to data collected by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, from 2015 to 2017, the percentage of gay men surveyed who reported using meth in the previous year was twice that of straight men.

In his memoir, “Tweakerworld,” to be released Tuesday, Yamas describes the experience of living in the drug-based “party and play” subculture in unflinching, gory detail from the unique perspective of both a one-time addict and drug dealer. .

He said he hopes his story can serve as a warning to those who may encounter this subculture without fully understanding the potential consequences of meth and GHB use.

In an interview with NBC News, he explained why he thinks it’s important to shine a light on the ongoing problem of addiction in the LGBTQ community, and why he’s taking the risk of telling his full story of being a central figure in San Francisco’s drug distribution. network.

Yamas, now 37, came from a middle-class family in eastern Pennsylvania that ran its own hotel, and he received a degree from New York University.

“I don’t believe that my comfortable middle-class upbringing with a support system and a loving family in itself would necessarily indicate that addiction was around the corner,” he said. “Addiction does not discriminate.”

Jason Yamas, right, as a child with his family.Courtesy Jason Yamas

Yamas said the typical depiction of a meth user is out of step with the realities of the populations it affects. For many, he said, meth use is associated with mugshots of emaciated faces with sores and scabs that have been publicized in anti-drug campaigns.

However, for many gay men, meth is first presented to them as a form of sexual enhancement or a way to extend the party, with some men reporting that they first tried meth without even knowing what it was.

“You come to that hookup from Grindr and all of a sudden it’s treated in a sexy way. … It doesn’t look that scary,” Yamas said. “The first step to prevention is to pull back the curtain.”

After Yamas’ introduction to the drug at sex parties and bathhouses, his relationship ended and he lost his job, driving him further into the “party and play” lifestyle.

Later he was introduced to GHB, which is commonly known as the “date-rape drug” but is also used in “party and play” culture because of the heightened sense of euphoria it can provide in smaller doses. According to researchers, the drug has seen a resurgence in the LGBTQ community in recent years, even though it can have deadly consequences.

“I would pass out constantly,” Yamas said, referring to his tendency to pass out on the drug. He said it was common to see people being raped at sex parties after passing out on the drug.

Yamas said he often passed out without warning due to GHB use.Courtesy Jason Yamas

He was shocked, he said, when he saw how popular video chat platforms like Zoom were being used to live stream people at other sex parties, who were sometimes passed out.

Because of his GHB use, Yamas said, he repeatedly passed out at the wheel while driving for a ride-sharing app, and he was eventually banned from the service because he was in several crashes.

Yamas said his lack of job opportunities and the connections he had already made led him to drug dealing.

“I was going to sex parties at night, meeting these potential clients and introducing them to the drug dealers I was driving for and building this network for both of them,” he said. “And it occurred to me that I can do this better than any of these people.”

In “Tweakerworld,” Yamas describes how he learned how to buy drugs on the dark web and how it fueled his business before coming into contact with a Mexican drug cartel. Mexican drug cartels are the largest providers of meth in the United States in 2020, according to a fact sheet released by the Drug Enforcement Agency

During a 12-hour shift, Yamas said, he could see 80 buyers, and he eventually created a drug deal where he had a team of eight working for him.

Eventually, however, his success in the illegal drug market took a dark turn. Yamas said he experienced life-threatening situations, such as having a gun pulled on him. He even entered a state of drug-induced psychosis, he said, where he became convinced he was constantly being listened to and watched, which could have been a side effect of meth use or the sleep deprivation that comes with it .

Yamas’ family eventually staged an intervention in February 2017, which he escaped, though he eventually checked into several rehab centers and got sober the following month, he said.

He said he has not used meth or GHB since leaving San Francisco six years ago. After completing rehab, Yamas moved to Philadelphia to be close to family and obtained his real estate license.

“The idea of ​​ridding yourself of the people, places and things that went along with your addiction — I really did,” he said.

Now Yamas lives in Los Angeles to pursue his old dream of acting and being a television writer. The book project, he said, stemmed from a delusion that he was telling himself and others about his addiction — that he was embedding himself in a world of “party and play” culture to eventually create a film about it.

“I knew it had to come out for my own pure healing process,” he said of writing his memoir.

“Tweakerworld” writer Jason Yamas.Jaclyn Campanaro

While Yamas was convinced he was being watched by law enforcement, no charges were ever brought against him for drug trafficking. While he acknowledges that there is always a risk in telling stories like his own, he said he feels protected because of the time that has passed since he lived in San Francisco and the amount of evidence, it takes to prosecute drug crimes.

While Yamas owed thousands to the Mexican cartel when he left the company, he has been told it has been forgiven, he said.

“I’m using this story to try to raise awareness about this type of crime and how it allows and perpetuates this vicious form of addiction,” he said. “So I hope that anyone who is going to consider pressing charges will take that into consideration.”

Sharing his own reality with gay “party and play” culture, he said, feels like a responsibility.

“Person after person that I knew whose lives were destroyed in various ways, from being cut off from their families to contracting incurable syphilis that had left them blind,” he said, “everything happened, because the first time they went to a hookup where they saw the word ‘party,’ someone introduced crystal meth to them.”

He added: “My responsibility to my community and to society as a whole, I think, is just to tell the truth and uncover what’s going on there, and you can use that information however you want.”

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