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Island teens increasingly aware of risks of methamphetamine use

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The Hawaii Meth Project's television ads on the dangers of crystal methamphetamine are being credited with increasing awareness among young adults.

A majority of Hawaii teenagers and a preponderance of young Hawaii adults like 19-year-old Camila Harris of Kaneohe see a huge risk in using methamphetamine even once—a double-digit increase over similar attitudes reported just last year, according to a survey by the Hawaii Meth Project to be released today.

"We realize the growing threat," said Harris, a Castle High School graduate who just finished her freshman year at the University of Hawaii. "When it comes to meth, it’s really scary."

Along with her friends, Harris credits $1 million worth of television, radio and print ads that began airing last year for helping to shift island attitudes among young people regarding meth. And that was welcome feedback for Cindy Adams, executive director of the Hawaii Meth Project, which will start airing another series of graphic television commercials and ads beginning today.

The survey to be released today suggests the new media campaign will continue to make a dent in the attitudes of young people in a remote island state that nevertheless has one of the nation’s worst meth problems, ranking behind just four other states in 2007.


The second Hawaii Meth Use & Attitudes Survey found that:

» 54 percent of Hawaii teens and 67 percent of young adults see great risk in taking meth once or twice, up 10 points for each group from one year ago.
» 87 percent of young adults strongly disapprove of trying meth even once or twice, up 6 points from last year.
» 67 percent of teenagers—up 11 points—and 82 percent of young adults—an increase of 7 points—say their friends would give them a hard time for using meth.
» 54 percent of teenagers have discussed meth with their parents in the past year, an increase of 6 points.

Meth, especially in its smokable form, is considered highly addictive after just one use. It is a factor in 75 percent of all drug enforcement operations—more than all other drugs combined, according to the Hawaii Meth Project. And 48 percent of all drug-treatment admissions are meth-related, surpassing alcohol.

Meth abuse costs Hawaii $500 million annually, a price tag that includes costs for health care, foster care, treatment, incarceration and lost work time, according to a 2005 Rand Corp. study.

So the estimated $1 million annual cost for the Hawaii Meth Project’s media campaign is a worthwhile investment, Adams said yesterday.

The second Hawaii Meth Use & Attitudes Survey found that 54 percent of Hawaii teens and 67 percent of young adults see great risk in taking meth once or twice. That is up 10 percentage points for each group from one year ago.

Having children talk to their parents about meth use is particularly important to David Barbour, a Kaneohe father of six girls, and he credits the graphic ads by the Hawaii Meth Project for changing attitudes.

"I’m hoping and believing that families are getting their acts together so their children won’t grow up with that kind of environment," Barbour said. "The advertising or the marketing or whatever they’re doing—you see some pictures of what meth will do to you, and it’s obvious that attitudes are changing. They’ve done a phenomenal job of educating people."

The four new television commercials that begin airing today can be found at www.hawaiimethproject.org.

Like their predecessors, the graphic images help sear the negative impressions of meth use into the minds of young people like Harris, who called last year’s campaign "frightening" and "scary."

The new commercials also feature young people whose lives and appearances are turned inside out from using methamphetamine.

One of them features a teenage boy who is introduced to meth by a group of older men, who teach the boy how to smoke "ice" for the first time.

"He says, ‘I’m trying it just this once,’" Adams said, "and the older men all laugh."


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