BOISE - The alarming increase in opioid and heroin addiction has been in the news a lot lately. It's a nationwide epidemic that is hitting Idaho hard.
However, you haven’t been hearing as much about Meth addiction. Does that mean Idaho is on top of that drug problem? Not by a long shot according to the experts we talked to.
Debbie Field has served as Idaho’s drug czar and led the state’s effort, called the Idaho Meth Project, for four years. She’s now chair of the State Board of Correction. Field says our state’s meth problem is as challenging as ever.
"Methamphetamine is a different kind of animal because it causes so much destruction in the community," she said. "Heroin and opioids are devastating but meth has an element of criminality that goes along with it, the abuse, the violence. I can tell you after looking at the numbers that our adult rate of people incarcerated is about the same as it was in 2007. Heartbreaking."
The executive director of Drug Free Idaho, Rob Stevenson, says there is one bright spot in the war on meth: The percentage of students who have ever used meth is down significantly from 6.4 percent in 2007 to 2.3 percent in 2015.
But Stevenson is concerned for the future because of the pro-drug message he believes our young people are receiving from popular culture and the legalization of marijuana in so many states. He believes drugs, whether it’s meth, opioids, heroin, or even marijuana, ruins families every day.
According to the Department of Health and Welfare, 29,000 Idaho children are not being raised by their parents because of drug abuse.
Both Field and Stevenson say Idaho needs to once again elevate the conversation around drug abuse to stem the tide of meth addiction and the growing dependence on illegal drugs across all age groups and economic backgrounds.
"We think for a time we can make a difference and we don't realize it's continually educating new teens, new people on the devastation this drug causes." Field said. "We can't be complacent."
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