Hawai‘i’s youth getting the meth picture

The graphic ads portraying meth users are beginning to build fear.

Hawai‘i’s young people are significantly more aware of the dangers of trying meth and increasingly disapprove of trying the drug, states a release from the Hawai‘i Meth Project in Honolulu.

The Hawai‘i Meth Project released findings from the 2011 Hawai‘i Meth Use and Attitudes Survey in conjunction with the announcement of the next wave of its public service messaging campaign, Thursday at the Hawai‘i Youth Correctional Facility, the state’s only juvenile correctional facility, on O‘ahu.

Teens are increasingly reporting they have told friends not to use meth and the Hawai‘i Meth Project’s campaign made them less likely to try or use the drug.

Survey results were compared to a benchmark survey conducted prior to the launch of the Hawai‘i Meth Project in 2009.

Results indicated 59 percent of Hawai‘i teens and 73 percent of Hawai‘i young adults now see “great risk” in trying meth even once or twice. This is up 15 points among teens, from 44 percent in 2009, and up 16 points among young adults from 57 percent.

Increasing numbers of teens see great risk in 13 of the 14 categories of negative effects of using meth. Fear of getting “hooked on meth” is up 11 points to 82 percent in the latest survey. Eighty-three percent feared “turning into someone they don’t want to be,” up 10 points from 2009.

Teens are also likely to strongly disapprove of trying meth — 87 percent in the survey, up five percent. Those who have told their friends not to use the drug totals 70 percent, up by 11 percent. Fifty-three percent of teens are now more likely to have discussed the subject of meth with their parents, up 5 percent.

“The results of the study are overwhelmingly positive and clearly indicate the Hawai‘i Meth Project campaign is making tremendous strides in changing attitudes and behaviors toward meth,” said Dr. Kevin Kunz, a specialist in addiction medicine in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island and president of the American Board of Addiction Medicine. “Our young people better understand the dangers associated with meth use and are now less likely to try the drug.”

But the problem is not solved, despite the progress made in educating teens about the risks of meth use. The U.S. Department of Justice claims methamphetamine is at its highest levels of availability and purity and at the lowest price since 2005.

Two in 10 Hawai‘i teens report someone has offered or tried to get them to use the drug.

The Meth Project’s new campaign will utilize television, radio, print and online advertising. The new ads portrays the dramatic effects meth can have on the user and the devastating impacts on family and friends.

“As a result of the Hawai‘i Meth Project, our young people are more aware of the dangers of using meth and are less likely to try it,” said Michael Broderick, president and CEO of the YMCA of Honolulu. “The new campaign really speaks on how meth impacts and destroys not just the user, but their strongest and most important relationships.”

Teens and young adults reported through the survey that the Hawai‘i Meth Project’s campaign provided them with critical information about meth and made them less likely to try the drug, the release states.

Most teens (88 percent) and young adults (75 percent) said the Hawai‘i Meth Project ads made them less likely to try or use meth, and 91 percent of teens and young adults say the ads show that meth is more dangerous to try than they originally thought.

Additionally, 95 percent of teens and 96 percent of young adults say if their brother, sister or a friend were thinking about trying meth, they would want them to see or hear a Hawai‘i Meth Project ad.

“The Hawai‘i Meth Project’s approach of combining public service messaging campaigns with direct outreach and education has made a marked difference, said Kathryn Matayoshi, superintendent for the state’s Department of Education. “The Project not only reaches teens with a campaign that shows how meth is highly addictive and destructive, it also involves them through effective and engaging programs in our classrooms and communities.”

The new radio spots feature local teens who describe their experiences with meth in detail. The Project partnered with HYCF to interview teens in their facility who wanted to share their stories in hopes of helping other young people.

“The Hawai‘i Meth Project is focused on educating Hawai‘i’s youth early, and often, about the risks of meth,” said Cindy Adams, executive director of the Project. “In speaking with teens in recovery, one of the most common regrets of their addiction, second only to taking that first hit, is the pain they caused family and friends. This new campaign provides a glimpse into how meth can take control and become the only thing that matters.”

The television spots, directed by Academy Award nominee Darren Aronofsky, take a dark look at the dangers of meth to those closest to the user.

In one of the ads, you hear a boy reflect on how much he cares about his mother, but the scene shows a very different picture. The boy, now an addict, steals money from his mother’s purse to buy meth. When confronted, he knocks her to the ground.

The Hawai‘i Meth Project estimates meth abuse costs the state more than $500 million annually through law enforcement, social services, treatment and lost productivity.

Hawai‘i ranks second in the nation for meth-related treatment admissions and, according to Quest Diagnostics’ Drug Testing Index 2010 data, workers in Hawai‘i are four times more likely to test positive for meth than the national average.

Visit www.hawaiimethproject.org/research for complete survey results conducted among random samples of 1,205 teens who attended one of 30 randomly selected junior and senior high schools across the state.

The new television, print and on-line ads started airing Thursday and can be viewed at www.hawaiimethproject.org/ads. Radio ads featuring stories of youth from HYCF will start airing in September but can be previewed on Hawai‘i Meth Project’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/hawaiimethproject.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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