IMPERIAL, Mo. (AP) -- Using methamphetamine is a real health hazard, but the sheriff in a Missouri county with one of worst meth problems in the nation is using a computer program to show kids how the drug can affect their looks.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Jefferson County Sheriff Glenn Boyer believes appealing to the vanity of kids will help prevent them from using meth. A computer program called Face2Face takes a picture of a person's face, then shows how it would look after six months, one year and three years of meth use.
Meth is known for causing skin lesions and sagging, as well as tooth decay.
Boyer wants to make the program available to community outreach events and school resource officers.
Missouri annually leads the nation in meth lab incidents, and Jefferson County is typically at or near the top of the list in Missouri.
"You can talk about the downfalls of meth addiction all day long, but if they can't see it, taste it or feel it, most people will forget about what's said," Boyer said. "We don't want them to feel and taste it, but this program will allow them to see it."
The software costs $3,000. Boyer learned about the program in October and asked Jefferson County P.R.I.D.E., or Parents Responsible for Increasing Drug Education, to partner with the sheriff's department and pay for it.
"Kids have to see it, and learn that it's real," said Cindy Pharis, P.R.I.D.E. programs coordinator. "And this makes it real. It's not just hearing about it from others or theoretical, it's seeing the transformation happen to them."
Abalone LLC designed the program. The idea came from Tom Allman, sheriff of Mendocino County in California, said Laslo Vespremi, president of Abalone.
Allman said he has been surprised by the reaction to Face2Face.
"Some kids even break down and cry because when they see the picture they say it looks like their Aunt Suzie or their brother who has been doing drugs for years," he said.
Vespremi said the program "appeals to image at an age where getting friends and dates is so important." he said.
Abalone has sold about 20 programs since it launched the product in March to clients such as the Air Force, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, and local police agencies.
Jefferson County will be the first in Missouri to receive it.
Boyer hopes to have the program in place next week.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press.)