The state of meth: Hawaii's ice epidemic has been driven down

Published: May. 17, 2010 at 3:15 PM HST|Updated: May. 20, 2010 at 4:33 AM HST
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"Not even once" TV ad campaign
"Not even once" TV ad campaign
Cindy Adams
Cindy Adams
Joe Lewis
Joe Lewis
Larry Burnett
Larry Burnett
Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle
Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle

By Holly Juscen – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - 'Not Even Once' - It's the raw and intense ad campaign by the Hawaii Meth Project. Thirty second spots showing teens addicted to 'ice', it's almost painful to watch.

"Feedback I have received from kids. Feedback I have received from families, and feedback I have received from recovering addicts has been that they believe it's this making a difference," said Cindy Adams of the Hawaii Meth Project.

The Hawaii Meth Project came on the scene last June, blanketing airwaves and schools, driving home the dangers of a drug that has plagued Hawaii for years.

But long before the in your face ads, there was "Life or Meth," the 2003 Edgy Lee documentary that aired in one night on 11 TV and radio stations, shining a spotlight on Hawaii's 'ice' crisis. Caught in the crisis, Joe Lewis.

"Within a matter of weeks I went from a one-time user to full-blown addict," said Lewis, a recovering addict from Kapolei.

Joe took his first hit of 'ice' with his father at the age of 14. By 18, Lewis was facing 17 felony counts and had a new born son and he desperately wanted out. Joe's story is just one of thousands during the height of the 'ice' war.

"In the 2003-2004 era, we seized tens of millions dollars worth of crystal meth," said Larry Burnett, of the HIDTA, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas.

The problem got even worse, at the peak in 2005, Honolulu Police alone investigated 962 ice cases that led to 719 arrests. Since then, both numbers have been in steady decline.

Part of the reason, the pseudoephedrine crack down that went into effect in 2006. A Key ingredient for cooking ice was cut off. Statewide, drug enforcement authorities saw the number of meth lab busts disappear. There have been none in last 4 years.

But ice is far from gone. Importation is still a problem

"It's coming in from Nevada and California, they are body packing it, bringing it in cargos and vessels," said Burnett.

The number of meth cases at the Honolulu Prosecutors Office has also dropped but Prosecutor Peter Carlisle says individual cases have gotten even worse.

"I can't think of anything worse than a guy who will throw a 23-month-old off a busy freeway and stand there and look at his handy work. There has been a whole lot of work done to let younger people know about the dangers of meth and that seems to be succeeding," said Peter Carlisle, Honolulu Prosecutor.

And Joe Lewis is a part of that success story. Lewis has been clean for eight years, his father for almost seven years. Joe finally graduated from McKinley High School at the age of 22, and is now working on his bachelors degree at UH.

But Lewis's main passion is working with the Hawaii Meth Project telling teens to stay away from 'ice."

"I share with them my personal story, how I got started using the drug and how vulnerable each one of them are. I think there needs to be more role models and people setting examples so they can see it's possible." said Lewis.

"Its think it's really important for teenagers to hear from people who have been directly affected by this drug," said Adams.

And its this kind of prevention and education that could help the younger generation break the chain of ice addiction.

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