Hawaii takes part in
federal studies on ‘ice’

At least three federally funded studies that track the effects of and possible treatments for crystal methamphetamine use -- including one that studies the effects of the drug known as "ice" on babies born to addicted mothers -- are underway in the islands.

The studies may provide the first reliable data on the effects of widespread ice use in a state where the drug has existed for at least two decades, say the principal investigators for the research being wholly or partly conducted in Hawaii.

Some of the studies' results may be ready for release by September, when Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona plans to hold a drug summit focusing on how to deal with the state's ice epidemic.

"We are the epicenter of the methamphetamine use in this country," said Barry Carlton, the chief of psychiatry at The Queens Medical Center and the co-principal investigator of a study examining the effectiveness of medications that claim to curtail cravings for the highly addictive drug.

The studies may provide a starting line from which the state could begin to create more effective programs for ice users and their families.

The studies are funded in part by the National Institute for Drug Abuse, a federal organization within the National Institutes of Health. Two of the studies are affiliated with the University of California at Los Angeles.

Dr. Chris Derauf, a pediatrician at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children, is helping to conduct the remaining study -- under the direction of researchers at Brown University -- that aims to look at the effects of ice on addicted mothers and their babies.

Each year, 2 to 3 percent of the nearly 20,000 babies in Hawaii are born to mothers who used ice during their pregnancies, he said. That equates to about 400 babies in the state who have potential developmental defects and behavioral problems related to the drug.

There are also study participants in California, Iowa and Oklahoma.

DeRauf said though the ice problem in Hawaii is "a major issue" in the state, the epidemic doesn't seem to be growing as much as in years past.

Talk about fixing the drug problem reached new levels last month, when Aiona released his plans to hold a drug summit for more than 200 local, state and federal officials. Legislators also announced plans to form a House-Senate joint committee to address the ice problem.

Alice Dickow, former director of the Women's Addiction Treatment Center at St. Francis Medical Center, helped conduct a nationwide study on the effectiveness of different treatments on ice addicts.

The study started in 1999 at the treatment center and at seven other sites on the mainland, she said.

Dickow couldn't comment on the results of the study, which are expected to be published later this year. But she said her preliminary research showed that ice in Hawaii -- unlike in other areas of the country -- is not only a party drug popular among youth, but a stimulant habitually taken by both the state's youth and adults.

The findings mean lawmakers and state health officials will have to employ tactics different than those in place elsewhere to fight the drug's spread, she said.

Alleviating the ice problem could be even more difficult given the high relapse incidence of the drug, she said.


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --