Not Just Once

Idaho meth use among nation's highest


The new Idaho anti-meth ad campaign launched earlier this year apparently has a growing target audience.

Meth use in the state has outpaced both alcohol and marijuana, according to a nationwide study recently released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

Meth use has increased by 35 percent, while alcohol use has increased by 22.5 percent, and marijuana use by 23 percent, based on admissions to treatment programs. Combined, the three causes are credited with 5,916 admissions into substance-abuse programs each year. The study is based on data from 2004 to 2005 and 2005 to 2006.

The statistics place Idaho in the highest category for meth use. Neighboring Intermountain states such as Arizona, Montana and Utah match Idaho's alcohol-related admissions but fall short in terms of meth.

Nationally, the study notes increasing rates of underage binge and chronic drinking, drug and tobacco use, substance abuse, emotional stress and mental-health issues often liked with chemical dependency.

"There were no surprises for us," said Bethany Gadzinski, bureau chief for substance-abuse disorders at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

While her office monitored prescription medicine use for some time, it hasn't focused on college alcohol use. But after reviewing this study, Gadzinski said things will have to change.

"Looking at this report, we're going to have to do that," she said.

In Idaho, men abusing alcohol, cocaine and marijuana outnumber their female counterparts two to one. Although, women are more likely to use heroin, hallucinogens and opiates.

Whites accounted for 72 percent of drug-related treatment admissions, with Hispanics representing nearly 13 percent.

In terms of age, 10 percent of admissions for alcohol-related treatment were for patients age 12 to 17, and another 10 percent for ages 41 to 45.

While approximately 18 percent of teenagers drink alcohol, that figure shoots up to nearly 59 percent of Idahoans between the ages of 18 to 25, and increases to 66 percent of adults older than 25.

There is some good news though: The Idaho statistics for substances other than alcohol and meth fall slightly below overall national averages.

Gadzinski said her department will continue looking at drug and alcohol use in Idaho. The agency recently completed a three-year Access to Recovery program, funded through a federal grant.

Still, she thinks the national report managed to reflect the effectiveness of drug education programs in Idaho.

"It looks like the prevention work we're doing is pretty effective," she said.