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2014 Drug Trends in Alaska

Over 35% of all cases that the Alaska State Police responded to in recent years had drugs or intoxicants involved. When you consider that 56% of all incidents that police respond to in the state are violent crimes, the problems that illicit drug use and drug abuse contribute to is serious business. The good news is that the efforts to fight the illegal drug trade, provide treatment for individuals with drug or alcohol addictions and to educate the public about the true cost of drug abuse are starting to make a difference. Since 2011 there has been a steady downward trend in drug use and drug related arrests. The end of illicit drug use and drug abuse is by no means in sight, but progress has been made.

What drugs are most commonly abused in Alaska?

By far the most common drug abused in Alaska remains alcohol. Despite the fact that alcohol is a legal drug, it is often abused by those who are under-aged. It is also commonly used in conjunction with illegal drugs, making many officials see alcohol abuse as a dangerous gateway to addiction to more serious drugs. Alcohol, heroin, methamphetamine, illegal prescription drug use and crack cocaine are the most prominent of the drugs abused in Alaska. While none of them rank higher than any other as more concerning, the presence of cocaine, heroin and alcohol has shown no signs of abating. Marijuana continues to have a strong presence and the recent surveys by the governor’s council on youth and drugs suggests a direct link between smoking marijuana and beginning to experiment with stronger illegal drugs.

Where are the drugs coming from?

Crack cocaine is of the biggest concern for officials manning the local airports. The majority of cocaine is acquired in California and the North West and flown in with passengers. Some of it even comes on private planes, which can make it harder to intercept. Almost all drugs in Alaska come in by plane; very few drugs come via any other form of transportation. While the drug cartels do not have as strong a presence in this state as they do in other areas of the continent, there are established supply routes that allow them to keep up with the demand. Meth and crack cocaine can be found everywhere in Alaska, including the rural areas. Heroin is still mostly found in the metropolitan areas of the state only.

What is the impact on Alaska of illegal drugs?

The cost of illegal drugs goes beyond the damage it can cost an individual. There were 6,700 people enrolled in drug and alcohol treatment programs in Alaska last year. Over 60% of those enrolled were male. The majority of accidental deaths, suicides and injuries are related to drug abuse – legal or illegal.  The cost of responding to these incidents – legally and medically – has created a great strain on the state budget.

What about illegal prescription drug use?

Alaska is not immune to the rising abuse of prescription drugs that is occurring in other states. It is slightly less of a problem as it has become easier to put controls in place to manage registered substances, and it is also much harder to hide large quantities of prescription drugs in air shipments.

Are drugs getting better or worse in Alaska?

There has been a decline in the number of methamphetamine labs in Alaska between 2001 and 2011 that is a good indicator that the drug problem is getting better. Another positive sign is that the number of people who are seeking treatment for addiction is on the rise as well. Much more needs to be done as the illegal drug trade continues to target vulnerable individuals in an effort to hold on to their market share. Another issue that has to be addressed is the cultural acceptance of alcohol abuse in Alaska. The statistics support that the majority of accidental deaths in Alaska still occur due to intoxication than any other single factor. Until there is more widespread education, and a social trend towards making intoxication and drug abuse unacceptable, the problem will continue. You can help by talking to those around you that may have a problem and help them find information about potential treatment programs. It also can help to choose not to use, or socially support, illegal drug use in your home or community.

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