POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Apr 29, 2011
Behind many of the recent headlines describing violent crimes are stories of individuals acting under the influence of crystal meth or being driven by their need to feed their addiction.
However, it is not just anecdotal evidence that tells us that ice use continues to be our biggest drug problem. Ninety percent of Hawaii's federally sentenced drug cases involve methamphetamine and 48 percent of treatment admissions are meth-related.
This affects the families of those involved and all of us as taxpayers. The cost of meth abuse to Hawaii is estimated to be $500 million a year.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the purity level of ice is at its highest and the price per gram at its lowest since 2005. This increases its attraction to repeat users and young first-time users looking for a cheaper and better high.
Law enforcement efforts and treatment are an important part of the solution, but if we are going to reduce methamphetamine use in Hawaii, we must reduce demand for the drug. Given the highly addictive nature of crystal meth, it is imperative that we focus on Hawaii's youth with preventive measures to educate them about the dangers of ice. Last June the Hawaii Meth Project released the results of its 2010 Hawaii Meth Use & Attitudes Survey which found that, compared to the 2009 benchmark survey conducted before the launch of its statewide meth prevention campaign, Hawaii's young people were increasingly aware of the risks of using crystal meth, strongly disapprove of taking the drug even once or twice, and are more likely to discuss the subject with their parents.
The data also showed that increasing numbers say their friends would give them a hard time for using.
Significant changes in attitude among youth play an important role in breaking the cycle of use and reducing future demand.
The impact of this drug to families and communities is nothing short of devastating. It tears families apart, if it doesn't make them stronger. Children who can't be cared for by another family member end up in foster care. Meth creates a huge socioeconomic burden on our state.
Together with prevention and treatment partners and law enforcement, we can break the cycle of methamphetamine addiction. Educating teenagers is key. If we can reduce the number of people who start using this drug, the size of the using population will begin to decrease,which will help drive down the overwhelming burden of treatment, incarceration, crime, foster care, etc.
Meth has been in Hawaii since the '60s, and few families are untouched by its destruction. We all need to get involved because, in some way, we all bear the burden of cost. Talk to your children, volunteer in your community, encourage family and friends struggling with meth use to get help.
Each of us can make a difference in how this insidious drug impacts our youth and our community.