Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Study finds ecstasy
use going up

Use of other drugs, alcohol
and tobacco declines among youth

By B.J. Reyes

While tobacco, alcohol and drug use has largely decreased or stabilized overall among Hawaii's youth, one illicit substance that has not followed that downward trend is ecstasy, according to a new study.

"We don't have a lot of trend data on it, but the fact that none of the other drugs increased in 2000 and this did really makes it stand out," said Renee Storm Klingle, one of the authors of the study that was released yesterday by the state Department of Health.

The anonymous survey of 25,860 students in 198 public schools and 39 private schools was conducted last spring among sixth-, eighth, 10th- and 12th-graders who had parental consent to participate.

Overall, the survey showed a substantial decrease in alcohol use, tobacco use at an all-time low and a decline in the use of most illicit drugs.

Ecstasy was the one exception.

"That's one drug that's starting to take off," said Keith Kamita of the state Narcotics Enforcement Division. "We're starting to see more and more of the school kids have at least knowledge of where to get it.

"From my experience ... they're using it at proms, the dances, the nightclubs, and it's available, which is a spooky sign."

Use of ecstasy by youths


>> In 1998: 12th-graders, 5 percent; 10th-graders, 4 percent; eighth-graders, unavailable.
>> In 2000: 12th-graders, 8 percent; 10th-graders, 5 percent; eighth-graders, 2 percent.


>> In 1999: 12th-graders, 8 percent; 10th-graders, 6 percent; eighth-graders, 3 percent.
>> In 2000: 12th-graders, 11 percent; 10th-graders, 7 percent; eighth-graders, 4 percent.

Source: Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division of the state Department of Health

Substance abuse across the board generally has declined in Hawaii, with the most notable decreases occurring among students in the lower grade levels, the report said.

But use of ecstasy increased among upper-level high school students. In 2000, 5 percent of 10th-graders and 8 percent of 12th-graders had tried ecstasy at least once, up from 4 percent and 5 percent, respectively, in 1998, the first year data on ecstasy were taken.

Hawaii's rates in 2000 were slightly lower than the national rate of 7 percent of 10th-graders and 11 percent of 12th-graders who said they had tried ecstasy at least once.

However, Hawaii's 2000 figures are nearly equal to 1999 figures, which showed 6 percent of 10th-graders and 8 percent of 12th-graders had tried ecstasy.

"We might just be a year behind," Klingle said.

Ecstasy is an amphetamine-based drug with hallucinogenic properties that affects the senses and increases the heart rate, Kamita said.

The drug has been around since the 1980s but has seen a recent surge due in part to the emergence of "raves," all-night underground dance parties where hundreds of teens crowd into a makeshift club.

"There are groups out there that are promoting parties and such, and while at the parties, there are people that are showing up with the drug and selling ecstasy," said Maj. Darryl Perry of the Honolulu Police Department's Narcotics/Vice Division. "We're trying desperately to curtail that.

"We feel that it is a problem. We don't know to what extent the problem exists," Perry added. "We're in the process of doing more research."

Klingle said another reason for the increase is the perceived availability of the drug.

"Studies show that it can cause permanent brain damage, and we have to get it across to the kids that this is not a safe drug," Kamita said.

Klingle agreed.

"A lot of the kids aren't really aware of how dangerous the risk is," she said. "They may not see it as a dangerous drug."

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