Rant & Rave

By Sabrina Hall

Tuesday, November 16, 1999

State on thin ice when it
comes to drug treatment

THERE is a silent, deadly monster lurking on our streets. It is the cause of abuse and neglect of children. It has been linked to homicides. The predator is crystal methamphetamine, also known as "ice."

Hawaii has been called one of the nation's "highest drug trafficking areas" by federal drug officials because of our continuing problem with crystal meth. According to a fact sheet made by the National Drug Control Office, Hawaii's "accessibility to Los Angeles and Tokyo made the islands a key international drug-distribution hub."

Efforts have been made to stop drug trafficking, but, because of the enormous volume of cargo and mail that come through Honolulu International Airport, not all the drugs can be detected.

Since "ice" arrived here about 10 years ago, child-abuse cases have doubled in Family Court, from 952 cases in 1988 to 2,044 cases in 1997. According to Child Protective Services, ice is involved in 90 percent of child-abuse cases. The lure of ice is so strong parents will do anything to get it. Abuse of children and other family members occurs because of the violent behavior caused by the drug.

USE of crystal meth has also been the cause of youth addiction and dropping out of school. These students lack the ambition to do anything but continue their drug use. The drug has killed about 36 people on Oahu annually since 1994.

In an attempt to arrest problems with crystal meth, we have threatened people who use it with jail time. The sad truth is, most of the convicts who are released do eventually return to prison. They go in with an addiction, they leave with an addiction. When will the cycle end?

The truth is the cycle will not end. How can a 10-year prison term help a man suffering from a disease?

Addiction is a disease according to the American Medical Association. So why do we treat this disease differently from others? It's most likely society reacts this way because people still ignorantly believe addiction is just a sign of weakness and lack of willpower.

Just as we do with cancer or other diseases, we must learn to treat addiction if we are to reduce crime. Treatment reduces recidivism. Studies in California, Texas, Delaware and New York show about 25 percent of inmates who receive treatment are rearrested within 12 to 18 months. That statistic may not sound good until compared with those who do not receive treatment, their rearrest rate is nearly 70 percent.

AS for crime reduction, it was found that among criminals receiving treatment, drug trafficking declined by 78 percent, shoplifting was reduced by 82 percent and assaults were down by 78 percent.

So treatment not only helps those suffering from addiction, it also helps people feel safer in their communities.

Most of the people who commit crimes while on drugs are not bad people. They are sisters, fathers and friends. It is not so easy to say, "Just throw him in jail and throw away the key," about someone we know.

As long as ice remains here, people will continue to become addicted. It is a discouraging fact, one that makes me wonder whether I would want to raise children here. All I know is that, God forbid, if a child of mine became a victim of drugs, I'd hope the state would do as much as it could to help my child get well. Right now, only 3 percent of those who need treatment are getting it.

Sabrina Hall is a freshman at Kapiolani Community College

Rant & Rave is a Tuesday Star-Bulletin feature
allowing those 12 to 22 to serve up fresh perspectives.
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