HPR’s Deeper Dive into Crystal Meth in Hawaii

May 25, 2016

Credit Noah Matteucci

45 times a day.

That's how many patients Hawaii’s largest emergency room admits with an issue related to crystal methamphetamine—one of four patients it treats.

Several decades ago, Hawai‘i was the first place in the United States that crystal meth landed — and today it’s a problem that stretches across three generations. Users are not just toothless addicts, but also high-functioning individuals whose chronic health problems turn up years later as heart and kidney issues. Many wind up in prisons and jails.

Meth has become deeply embedded in local culture in Hawaii — it has sunk roots into the community. Workplace testing consistently shows usage rates in the state at four times the national average. Stories of individuals illustrate the lure of the drug and the destructive path it can cut through families and community.

There have been changes on the part of law enforcement and the judiciary in their treatment of meth cases—trying to push users into treatment rather than incarceration, but there’s a severe lack of treatment centers around the state, especially on neighbor islands. There’s also a lack of detox centers. Those who work with recovering addicts say several other steps are needed to combat the problems of meth in Hawaii: including integrating primary care physicians into mild and moderate cases of drug abuse and opening realistic discussions about the nature of addiction and ending the stigma of talking about crystal methamphetamine.

The story of crystal methamphetamine in Hawai‘i touches nearly everyone in the islands. We see it in our court rooms, our emergency rooms, and in our families across multiple generations.

Over the next month, you’ll hear these stories in our new podcast series, Hawai‘i’s New Ice Age: Crystal Meth in the Islands. And we also want to give you the opportunity to share yours. 

If you or someone you know has been touched by meth, tell us your story. Email us, tweet us, or let us know what you think on our Facebook wall! Be sure to include our hashtag #HPRMeth. We hope to guide our future coverage with your ideas, suggestions, and input.

If you or someone you know has a problem with crystal methamphetamine, a good starting point for help is the Hawai‘i Department of Health treatment resource page.

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