In 2015, Jason Yamas was a 29-year-old multimedia producer working for a Grammy Award-winning artist. But by the following year, life as he knew it started 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 'G' addiction, sabotaging his artistic career and becoming one of the top suppliers of illicit drugs to San Francisco’s largely gay “party and play” subculture.
“I quickly, stupidly became the talk of the town,” he said. “I was the largest crystal meth supplier within San Francisco’s queer community.”
He operated in pounds of meth and gallons of 'G' at a time, which he referred to as “liquid gold” because of how valuable it was. 'G' is short for GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) or GBL (gamma butyrolactone), which are commonly known as 'date rape drugs' but are used recreationally in parts of the gay community. At his peak, Yamas said, he was bringing in $15,000 to $20,000 in profit per week, selling 15 pounds of meth and four gallons of GBL.
The “party and play” or “chemsex” subculture — which revolves around meth, 'G' and sex — has carved a deep trail of addiction into LGBTQ communities around the world, as NBC News has previously reported.
Despite efforts to raise awareness, the problem has only appeared to grow worse as meth-related overdose rates continue to increase in the U.S.
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 as high as straight men.
In his memoir, “Tweakerworld,” which is being released Tuesday, Yamas describes the experience of living in the drug-fueled “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 for those who might encounter this subculture without fully understanding the potential ramifications of meth and 'G' use.
In an interview with NBC News, he explained why he thinks it’s important to shine a light on the persistent 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, per se, would necessarily indicate addiction was around the corner,” he said. “Addiction does not discriminate.”
Yamas said the typical depiction of a meth user is out of step with the realities of the populations it affects. To many, he said, meth use is associated with mugshot images of gaunt faces with wounds and scabs that have been publicized in anti-drug campaigns.
For many gay men, though, meth is first posed 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 get to that hookup from Grindr, and all of a sudden it’s being treated in a sexy way. … It doesn’t look as intimidating,” Yamas said. “The first step to prevention is pulling the curtain back.”
Following Yamas’ introduction to the drug at sex parties and bath houses, his relationship ended and he lost his job, propelling him further into the “party and play” lifestyle.
Later, he was introduced to 'G', which is used in “party and play” culture because of the heightened sense of euphoria it can provide in smaller doses. The drug has had a resurgence in the LGBTQ community in recent years, according to researchers, even though it can have deadly consequences.
“I would fall out constantly,” Yamas said, referring to his tendency to pass out on the drug. He said it was common to see people be raped at sex parties after passing out on the drug.
He was shocked, he said, when he saw how popular video chat platforms like Zoom were being used to livestream people at other sex parties who were sometimes passed out.
Because of his 'G' 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 multiple crashes.
Yamas said his lack of job opportunities and the connections he’d already made led him to drug dealing.
“I was at sex parties at night, meeting these potential clients, then introducing them to the drug dealers I was driving for, building this network for them both,” 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 to purchase drugs on the dark web and how that fueled his enterprise before he connected with a Mexican drug cartel. Mexican drug cartels, according to a fact-sheet published by the Drug Enforcement Agency in 2020, are the largest providers of meth in the U.S.
During a 12-hour shift, Yamas said, he could see 80 buyers, and he eventually created a drug-dealing enterprise where he had a team of eight working for him.
Eventually, though, his success in the illicit drug market took a dark turn. Yamas said he experienced life-threatening situations, like having a gun pulled on him. He even entered a state of drug-induced psychosis, he said, where he became convinced he was being listened to and watched at all times, 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 fled, though he eventually entered several rehabilitation centers and became sober the following month, he said.
He said he hasn’t used meth or 'G' since he left San Francisco six years ago. After completing rehab, Yamas moved to Philadelphia to be close to family and got his real estate license.
“The idea of ridding yourself of the people, places and things that aligned with your addiction — I really did that,” he said.
Now, Yamas lives in Los Angeles to pick up his old dream of acting and being a TV writer. The book project, he said, stemmed from a delusion that he told himself and others about his addiction — that he was embedding in the world of “party and play” culture to eventually create a film about it.
“I knew it had to come out for my own cathartic healing process,” he said of writing his memoir.
While Yamas was convinced that he was being watched by law enforcement, no criminal charges have ever been filed against him for drug trafficking. While he acknowledges that there’s always a risk in telling stories like his own, he said he feels protected because of the amount of 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 business, he’s been told that it’s been forgiven, he said.
“I am using this story to try to raise consciousness around this type of crime and how it allows and expands this vicious kind of addiction,” he said. “So I would hope that anybody who would be considering bringing charges would take that into consideration.”
Sharing his own reality with gay “party and play” culture, he said, feels like a responsibility.
“Person after person who I knew whose lives were destroyed in various ways, from being disconnected from their family to contracting untreatable syphilis that had caused them to go blind,” he said, “all stemmed because the first time they went to a hookup where they saw the word ‘party’ somebody introduced crystal meth to them.”
He added, “My responsibility to my community and society as a whole, I believe, is just to tell the truth and uncover what’s going on there, and you can use that information as you’d like.”