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Hawaii near top for alcohol abuse

A survey finds the state has the lowest number of residents with an illegal drug dependency

Hawaii has one of the nation’s highest rates of alcohol addiction but ranks as the state with the least drug dependence, according to a federal government survey released yesterday.

More than four out of 100 people over 12 years old in Hawaii are addicted to alcohol, says the study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, an agency within the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.

That puts Hawaii ahead of only Montana and the District of Columbia, and worse than the national average of 3.4 per 100 people.

Only 1.4 percent of Hawaii residents acknowledged illicit drug dependence, which beats every other state in the survey conducted in 2006 and 2007. Nationwide, 1.9 percent said they were addicted to drugs.

“While that rate of dependence on drugs is low, it’s just the opposite for dependence on alcohol,” said Art Hughes, a co-author of the report with the Office of Applied Studies.

The study can be used by Hawaii health officials to determine how to prioritize their resources for fighting drug and alcohol addiction and abuse, Hughes said.

Alcohol abuse is Hawaii’s most widespread problem, but crystal methamphetamine dependence has more quick and severe consequences, said Alan Johnson, chief executive of Hina Mauka substance-abuse treatment center.

“With alcohol, you have a lot of people who are abusing but haven’t reached the addiction yet,” Johnson said. “But when you get down to treatment of those having disasters and consequences to their families and themselves, you see the ice addicts coming in.”

More people are admitted to drug-abuse treatment centers for ice — the street name for crystal meth — than alcohol and marijuana, said Johnson, chairman of the Hawaii Substance Abuse Council.

It often takes years for alcohol abusers to develop a debilitating addiction, but ice smokers have a 65 percent of becoming addicted after their third use, Johnson said.

source: Star bulletin

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