“The opioid and heroin crisis in this country and in Idaho is not just a law enforcement problem. It is a public health and community problem. It demands a broad array of public health and community services. Opioid addiction often begins not with a law-breaking doctor, but with a family medicine cabinet…”
~Wendy Olson, United States Attorney for the District of Idaho
Like the rest United States, the State of Idaho is dealing with a seemingly ever-growing problem with substance abuse – alcoholism, illicit drug addiction, and especially opioid abuse – both of street heroin and prescription painkillers.
Because of the unique geography and the amount of drug traffic entering Idaho, Ada and Canyon Counties are part of the Oregon-Idaho High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.
How prevalent is the drug threat in this HIDTA? In 2015, 107 Drug Trafficking Organizations and seven Money Laundering Organizations were operating in the area, and during the first five months of 2016, another nine DTO’s were identified.
In 2014, 212 people in Idaho died due to fatal overdoses, most of them because of opioids. Between 1999 and 2013, the number of Idaho deaths attributable to drug misuse more than doubled.
Before effective solutions can be found, it is first necessary to have a good understanding of the scope of the problem. To that end, here are some surprising addiction statistics about the state of Idaho:
Snapshot #1 – DUI Statistics in Idaho
“With a lot of people, alcohol impairs their judgment. They get the attitude that they’re okay and will try to make it home.”
~Elmore County Sheriff Rick Layher
One characteristic of addiction is continued consumption despite negative consequences. An example of a substance-related behavior that causes negative consequences is Driving Under the Influence of alcohol or drugs. Take a look at some 2015 statistics from the Idaho Transportation Department. Impaired driving resulted in:
- 7387 arrests – more than 1 out of every 20 crashes was due to impaired driving
- 1367 crashes
- 946 injuries
- 87 fatalities – A 21% year-over-year increase from 2014
- Over 40% of all fatal crashes in Idaho in 2015 were due to impaired driving.
Snapshot #2 – Opioid Abuse in Idaho
As part of National Heroin and Opioid Awareness Week, the US Attorney for Idaho, Wendy Olson, said, “Yes, the statistics are frightening. The trend in Idaho is just as alarming. As I meet with law enforcement leaders around state, I hear what they see: an increase in heroin use, abuse, and availability. Prescription painkillers are simply synthetic heroin: once a person is addicted to painkillers, transitioning to the use of heroin is easy.”
- 1 out of 5 high school students in Idaho have used a prescription drug without having a prescription.
- According to a 2013 report, Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic, Idaho’s rate of drug overdoses is double what it was in 1999.
- The Idaho Press reports that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration believes that the abuse of illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs takes the life of an Idaho resident every 45 hours.
- Within the Oregon-Idaho High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), prescription opioids accounted for 62% of all seized controlled medications in 2015.
- The amount of heroin seized by Idaho State Police jumped 800% between 2014 and 2015.
- According to the ISP, heroin cases handled by the Domestic Highway Enforcement Team skyrocketed 775% during that same one-year timeframe.
Snapshot #3 – Methamphetamine Abuse in Idaho
“We are not winning the war on methamphetamines, not in any way. It’s not a law enforcement issue, it’s a society issue… The underlying and the secondary and tertiary effects of what this drug does and is doing to our county, to our society, to our young people, to our hospitals, to our health and welfare – there is nothing untouched by that.”
~Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donoghue
- The ISP reports that meth cases 2014-2015 more than tripled.
- The number of Idaho arrests connected to methamphetamines rose 70% 2009-2014.
- During that same time period, stimulant deaths increased by 75%.
- 67% of respondents in the Idaho region to the National Drug Threat Survey said that methamphetamines were “highly available”—the highest percentage in at least seven years.
- Among Oregon-Idaho law enforcement officers responded to the NDTS:
- 63% said that meth is the area’s “greatest drug threat”
- 68% said that meth is the “most prevalent illicit drug”
- 76% said that meth “most contributes to property crime”
- 93% said that meth “most contributes to violent crime”
- In the most recent year available (2013), methamphetamine was the most-frequently-cited primary drug problem of people admitted to Idaho treatment facilities—42%.
Snapshot #4 – Marijuana Abuse in Idaho
“We see it all the time and there’s no question that we are having to change the way that we train, the way that we do our job… Teaching and training our officers on what to look for, what a driving pattern is for somebody who’s been using marijuana, compared to someone who’s been using alcohol.”
~Idaho State Police Captain Bill Gardiner
- Since 2011, the amount of marijuana seized by the ISP has gone up over twelvefold – from 131 pounds to 1650 pounds in 2015.
- 21% of impaired Idaho drivers test positive for cannabis.
- 70% of all Idaho drug arrests in 2014 were because of marijuana.
- Marijuana is the second-most-cited illicit drug abuse at Idaho treatment centers – 38%.
- Today’s marijuana is MUCH more potent than in years past – over 12 and-a-half percent THC in 2013 versus just over seven percent a decade earlier – a 75% increase.
- Some liquid concentrations – honey oil, hash oil, or marijuana wax – can contain up to 90% THC.
What Can We Learn from All of these Statistics?
It is obvious that there are several areas of concern in the State of Idaho – patterns of drug availability, use, and overdoses trending upward. This means that timely and effective education, prevention, intervention, and treatment programs are more important than ever.