People often talk about the “price we pay to live in paradise”, referring to the high cost of living in the Aloha state. Taxes are high. Groceries are pricey. Electricity is expensive. Life in Hawaii does indeed come at a high cost. A recent study shows that the high cost may be one of the causes of a high rate of methamphetamine use among the workforce.
A leading drug testing company, Quest Diagnostics, conducted a study of millions of urine test samples collected from the American workforce, in an effort to analyze workforce drug use by state. And what they found when looking at drug use here in Hawaii is disturbing. According to their study, Hawaii ranked number one in the nation for samples testing positive for meth. The national average was determined to be one positive test out of every 1,000 tests. Quest Diagnostics discovered that meth use in the workforce in Hawaii is at 410 percent greater than that average.
Arkansas and Oklahoma followed at 280 and 240 percent greater than the national average respectively. According to the study, meth use in the east coast workforce remains lower, with samples from New York found to be 100 percent below the national average.
Although a recent Gallup survey named Hawaii the “2011 Happiest State in the US” and we often use the phrase “lucky to live in Hawaii”, it is no secret that many residents face financial pressures of living in paradise. And it seems this pressure is pushing some to find ways to work harder and longer. Methamphetamine’s ability to increase energy in users is enticing to folks that need to work long hours – like those required by many construction and service industry jobs – or multiple jobs. “Functional users” can also be found in competitive fields, such as law, where strong concentration and alertness are required to not only do a job, but do it better than the next person. And when one considers the current state of the economy, staying ahead of the competition is sometimes necessary for survival.
But when one considers the harmful effects of meth use, certainly getting the “competitive edge” from meth is not worth the risks. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that chronic use can actually “significantly change how the brain functions”. This can result in reduced motor skills, emotional and cognitive problems, hallucinations, delusions, irregular heartbeat, anxiety, insomnia, and violent behavior. Meth is also highly addictive and the effects may persist even after use has stopped.
“Highest rate of meth use among the workforce” is not a classification we can be proud of. Programs like the Hawaii Meth Project are using public service messaging, public policy, and outreach efforts to educate residents on the dangers of the drug, prevent first time meth use, and reduce the number of users in and out of the workforce.