We’ve all seen the ads: A young man, his face pocked with sores, his eyes dark and vacant, rampages through a laundromat, demanding money from frightened women and children. A girl gets in the shower and sees herself curled in the corner, bleeding, admonishing, “Don’t do it.”
The “it” is meth, speed, ice, batu. The ads are part of the Hawaii Meth Project‘s statewide campaign, launched last year. And, according to the results of a survey released last week, they’re working.
Fifty-four percent of teenagers–at whom the ads are aimed–said they “see great risk in taking meth once or twice,” a 10 percent increase compared to last year. That’s particularly telling, Hawaii Meth Project says, because “Not Even Once” is the campaign’s central slogan. Other findings are equally encouraging: 67 percent of teenagers said “their friends would give them a hard time for using meth,” an 11 percent increase compared to last year, and 54 percent said they had “discussed the subject of meth with their parents in the last year,” a 6 percent increase.
Politicians, naturally, were quick to tout the impact of the campaign. “Thanks to the efforts of the Hawaii Meth Project we are educating Hawaii’s young people about the dangers of methamphetamine use,” said State Senate President and recent Congressional candidate Colleen Hanabusa in a release. “Meth will destroy their health, rob them of their futures, and ruin the lives of those they care about most.”
House Speaker Calvin Say echoed those comments, lauding the Meth Project for the “leadership role it has played in developing an effective prevention strategy in Hawaii.”
Amid the praise, however, came less rosy statistics from the sate Department of Health’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division. More than 3,500 adults entered state treatment centers for meth addiction last fiscal year, a 19 percent increase over the previous year, according to figures first reported in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Of all the adults admitted to treatment centers in the state, nearly half went in for ice. It’s been that way at least since 2006, with small peaks and valleys but no real indication that use is on a steady decline.
Of course, people getting treatment is a good thing. And campaigns aimed at teens will likely take years to have a significant impact on adult use. But the point is that for every positive study, there’s the cold, hard reality that meth is still cheap, easy to produce, widely available and dangerously addictive. As opposed to other drugs–particularly marijuana–that draw law enforcement resources, it is a legitimate threat to public health and safety. And it isn’t going away.