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Idaho is known (of course) for its famous potatoes, but its official nickname is "The Gem State" because of the over 72 different precious and semi-precious gemstones have been found there. But sadly in recent times it's become known for something more sinister-a growing alcohol and drug addiction crisis.
Idaho boasts a comfortable average annual income level of $70,620 as of 2018, and given its relative wealth, it would be tempting to think that it had been spared the scourge of drug addiction that has ravaged poorer states, but this isn't the case. As a direct consequence of drug use, 184 people died in Idaho in 2010-this is compared to the number of people in Idaho who died from motor vehicle accidents (214) and firearms (198) in the same year. Despite being well-off in terms of resources, Colorado drug and alcohol abuse continues to rise at an alarming rate.
When we look at the relationship between addiction and economics, we quickly realize that it's quite complicated. Drug and alcohol abuse is a national problem, and no state in the US has been spared. Over 60,000 overdoses occurred nationwide in 2016, with nearly 175 people dying daily. Drug overdoses kill more people annually than suicides, homicides, car accidents and guns. These numbers increase every year. Poorer people are statistically more likely to struggle with drug or alcohol abuse, but this doesn't necessarily mean that people that are more well-off economically are less likely to become addicted. In fact in some cases, wealthy people can be thrown into poverty as a direct result of addiction. Someone who is solidly middle class can fall into poverty if their addiction leads to poor work performance and job loss. It can also then be harder to get a new job, if someone has been fired from their old one. It's a vicious downward spiral.
Much like the rest of the United States, the scourge of opioid addiction has blown through Idaho like an unstoppable blizzard, laying waste to whole communities, and decimating families. In Idaho, nearly half of the 250 reported drug overdose deaths involved opioids in 2018—a total of 120 fatalities (and a rate of 7.1!) Opioid addiction is a particularly menacing foe because it's a malady that can sneak up on people, even when they think they're being vigilant.
Prescription painkillers (like Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Percocet) are highly addictive, in large part because they activate the powerful reward centers in the human brain. These drugs trigger the release of endorphins, (your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters) which mask or interrupt your perception of pain and enhance feelings of pleasure and happiness, creating a short-lasting but extremely powerful sense of well-being. It's only human to love the feeling! And, when an opioid starts to wear off, it's in our very human nature to crave the return of that wonderful sense that everything is perfect and as it should be. This is the first step on the path toward addiction, and it can happen even to people who think they're being careful.
The root of the opioid problem stems from doctors over-prescribing these highly addictive drugs when, in many cases, Tylenol, Excedrin or Advil will do. These drugs may seem safe, especially when doctors prescribe them, but just one or two of few these prescription pain pills can get people hooked and send them off on a downward spiral into the throes of full-on dependency. In 2018, Idaho providers wrote 61.9 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people!
Unfortunately, prescription painkiller abuse can often send people down far darker paths. Opioids often lead to heroin addiction, (as heroin is cheaper than the pills, and usually far easier to obtain on the street.) The spiral downward doesn't stop there. When certain street drugs like heroin aren't available, drug abusers often then turn to incredibly powerful and dangerous synthetics like fentanyl, which sooner or later result in a body bag. In the United States, synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are now the most common drugs involved in drug overdose deaths, responsible for 59% of all opioid-related decedents.
A recent study took a look at the substances most commonly abused by Idaho youth, and the numbers are concerning:
30% of high school students report they've used marijuana (also called grass, pot, or weed) 1 or more times in their lifetime.
4% of Idaho youth (ages 12-17) report using pain relievers in a way not directed by a doctor in the past year. This is particularly concerning because we know how incredibly addictive these drugs are.
The good news for Idaho residents struggling with drug and alcohol addiction is that help is only a few clicks away. The Gem State is awash in resources, whether you just need counseling, a broader more community-based approach, or full-on detox services. All it takes is the courage to take the first, terrifying step. Embrace the pain that got you here. Use it, own it, and move past it. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
Idaho State Facts
Idaho Population: 1,291,998
Law Enforcement Officers in Idaho: 3,046
Idaho Prison Population: 8,900
Idaho Probation Population: 35,670
Violent Crime Rate National Ranking: 42
2004 Federal Drug Seizures in Idaho
Cocaine: 10.8 kgs.
Heroin: 0.1 kgs.
Methamphetamine: 6.9 kgs.
Marijuana: 1,700.0 kgs.
Ecstasy: 0 tablets
Methamphetamine Laboratories: 27 (DEA, state, and local)
Idaho Drug Situation: Mexican National poly-drug organizations control most drug trafficking organizations in the state. Methamphetamine, produced in and outside the region, is widely available. Controlled substances are smuggled into the state via air and land routes from Southwest border-states and Mexico. Marijuana and "Club Drugs" are common in Idaho.
Cocaine in Idaho: Cocaine is readily available throughout the state, but is largely limited to affluent users. Because of its lower price and higher purity, methamphetamine has replaced cocaine as the drug of choice.
Heroin in Idaho: Mexican black tar and brown heroin is readily available in Idaho. It is commonly smuggled into the state in hidden compartments in vehicles. Increasingly, heroin is moved into the state via air transport from the southwestern states of the US. Increasingly heroin is moved into the state via air transport from the southwestern states of the US.
Methamphetamine in Idaho: Methamphetamine is one of the most widely abused drugs in the state. Methamphetamine impacts across all elements of society. Most methamphetamine is manufactured elsewhere, primarily in Mexico, California, and other Southwest Border States. When large quantities of methamphetamine are seized in northern Idaho, the source is usually from the Yakima Valley, WA, area. Idaho has experienced a dramatic decrease in methamphetamine labs which law enforcement agencies contribute to better sentencing of violators found guilty of manufacturing the drug. As a result of a decrease in lab seizures local Hispanic distributors have increased distribution of methamphetamine smuggled into the state. Crystal methamphetamine, often 100 percent pure, is increasing in availability in the state. Source areas for this type of methamphetamine include California and Nevada. Crystal methamphetamine, often 100 percent pure, is increasing in availability in the state. Source areas for this type of methamphetamine include California and Nevada. Idaho has experienced a dramatic decrease in methamphetamine labs which law enforcement agencies contribute to better sentencing of violators found guilty of manufacturing the drug. As a result of a decrease in lab seizures local Hispanic distributors have increased distribution of methamphetamine smuggled into the state.
Club Drugs in Idaho: Club Drugs, particularly MDMA (methylene-dioxy-methamphetamine) (also known as Ecstasy), LSD, and ketamine are popular among young adults and are sold at local rave parties. The Seattle, Washington, area is the source of most MDMA available in Idaho. Synthetic drugs, uncommon in other areas of the division, to include 2C-B, DET (a drug that imitates a psychotic state for psychological/medical experiments), SMeo DIPT, a.k.a. "Foxy" and "Foxy Methoxy" have appeared in the Boise rave scene. The Seattle, WA area is the source of most MDMA available in Idaho.
Marijuana in Idaho: Marijuana abuse in Idaho is second only to methamphetamine abuse. Marijuana cultivation, both indoor and outdoor, is widespread. Mexican marijuana is also available, but is not preferred. Marijuana abuse in Idaho is second only to methamphetamine.
Other Drugs in Idaho: The most commonly abused pharmaceutical drugs encountered in the state are hydrocodone and benzodiazepines. Soma and its generic equivalent are commonly abused in combination with hydrocodone. The prescription drug Oxycontin is a growing problem in northern Idaho. The drug is more prevalent and easier to buy. The largest increase of OxyContin prescriptions has occurred in pain-management medical specialty clinics. Methadone is frequently utilized for pain management, because it is less expensive than other Schedule II analgesics. The prescription drug Oxycontin is a growing problem in northern Idaho. The drug is more prevalent and easier to buy.
DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams: This cooperative program with state and local law enforcement counterparts was conceived in 1995 in response to the overwhelming problem of drug-related violent crime in towns and cities across the nation. There have been 409 deployments completed resulting in 16,763 arrests of violent drug criminals as of February 2004. There have been two MET deployments in the State of Idaho since the inception of the program: Nampa and Lewiston.
DEA Regional Enforcement Teams: This program was designed to augment existing DEA division resources by targeting drug organizations operating in the United States where there is a lack of sufficient local drug law enforcement. This Program was conceived in 1999 in response to the threat posed by drug trafficking organizations that have established networks of cells to conduct drug trafficking operations in smaller, non-traditional trafficking locations in the United States. Nationwide, there have been 22 deployments completed resulting in 608 arrests of drug trafficking criminals as of February 2004. There have been no RET deployments in the State of Idaho.