Tuesday, March 20, 2001

Survey shows
alcohol abuse doing
more damage than ‘ice’

The 1998 survey will help
health officials target their spending
on drug treatment programs

By Pat Gee

Alcohol continues to be the most abused substance across the state, according to a study released yesterday by the state Department of Health.

Alcohol abuse accounts for most of the "damage to families, criminality, and health-care costs, putting Hawaii among the top-third in the nation for the amount of alcohol consumed," said Elaine Wilson, chief of the DOH's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division.

Health department officials also pointed out that Hawaii leads the nation in abuse of crystal meth, or "ice." About 11.9 percent of the adult population in Hawaii has used crystal meth at least once, Wilson said.

University of Hawaii sociology professor D.W. Wood, chief investigator of the survey, said there are 8,100 crystal meth users seeking treatment across the state.

Wilson said she did not mean to belittle the severity of the crystal meth problem, but alcohol abuse, involving some 68,000 people, "is much more significant," she said.

The federally funded study of 5,050 households across the state was conducted by the department and the former UH School of Public Health.

State Health Director Bruce Anderson said the results were "critical in learning where to put our limited resources."

"More people need treatment now than ever before," he said, but even if the state's current resources were "trebled, quadrupled, even multiplied by five, they would be insufficient to do the job needed," he said.

He added, "Our treatment needs are so overwhelming the focus has got to be on prevention."

Other survey results noted:

>> Substance abuse and treatment needs were higher among males than females, greater for young adults compared to older adults, and greatest for Caucasians and Hawaiians.

>> Honolulu had the most people requiring treatment; Hawaii County showed the largest increase in total treatment needed.

>> From 1995 to 1998, females ages 18 to 24 had the greatest increase in the heavy use of alcohol.

>> Heroin use increased markedly, but cocaine use was on the decline.

Wilson said the survey had been contracted in 1998 and is being released a bit later than the 1-2 years it usually takes to analyze the data.

But the data, she said, "is still holding up," and statistics collected last year on admissions to treatment centers is in alignment with the trends noted in the study.

She said surveys are usually taken every four to five years.

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