Showing meth's ugly effects


POSTED: Saturday, June 13, 2009

Television viewers in Hawaii are being jarred by a flourish of public-service warnings about the danger of methamphetamine. The worthy campaign will be successful if it makes gains experienced in Montana, where the inaugural program has drastically reduced the use of meth as a major crime problem.

Use of crystal meth reached a peak in Hawaii in 2005 and declined in the next two years. No figures are available from last year, when the Hawaii Meth Project launched its first campaign patterned after the Montana blitz. However, crystal meth used in the workplace dropped 33 percent from the first quarter of 2007 to the second quarter of 2008, according to Karl Espaldon, the state's drug-control liaison.

A continuing downturn is far from guaranteed. Maui police officer Ken Doyle told the Maui News that the economic recession is increasing the drug trade. “;As people lose their jobs, times are going to be tough,”; he said. “;People are going to do things they wouldn't normally do.”;

Montana's meth abuse per capita went from fifth-highest in the country in 2005 to 39th-highest last year, as teenage meth use declined by 45 percent and adult use dropped by 62 percent. If the progress continues, said Mike McGrath, that state's attorney general, “;Methamphetamine will have changed from a crisis to a manageable problem.”;

Like Montana's campaign, the Hawaii effort consists of messages via television, radio, newspapers and the Internet. Statewide education and outreach programs also are planned, said Cindy Adams, the Hawaii project's executive director. The program has expanded to include Arizona, Illinois, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado.

The Hawaii project has released results of a new survey taken in March and April showing that one in five teens and one in three adults in the state report that meth is readily available. One in 10 teens and one in five young adults report they have close friends who use meth.

In addition, 30 percent of Hawaii's teens believe that trying meth carries no risk, according to the survey. The project's 30-second TV spots drive home the reality that it can be quickly addictive. Young people in the ads portray experiencing mental and physical deterioration after promising to try meth only once.

“;This survey clearly demonstrates our young people are dangerously unaware of the risks posed by meth use,”; said Dr. Kevin Kunz, president of the American Board of Addiction Medicine. He cited the survey's finding that 41 percent of Hawaii teens would not give friends a “;hard time”; if they used meth and 40 percent have not tried to dissuade their friends from using it.