"I shouldn't be here. I should be dead;" meth addiction quadruples in Alaska

Published: Nov. 14, 2017 at 7:35 PM AKST
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Methamphetamine use, most often called meth, has increased dramatically in Alaska. According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, meth hospitalizations went up 40 percent and overdose deaths exploded 4-times what is normal.

"That's a significant increase for us to see that rise over a period of time," the health program manager Deborah Hull-Jilly with the state section of epidemiology said.

According to Hull-Jilly, the rates were highest in Anchorage, 18.2 per 100,000 people, followed by the Northern gulf coast, 14.4 percent, and Matanuska-Susitna, 13.8.

While most attention has been focused on the overwhelming number of Alaskan opiate addicts, enough for the governor to proclaim a disaster declaration, Hull-Jilly says that often meth and opioids go hand-in-hand.

"Heroin acts more as a sedative affect," Hull-Jill said, "so they need something to stimulate them. So it's this balancing act, where they get the term "speed ball" or "train wreck." I prefer the term train wreck because that's truly where you're going."

According to the state, methamphetamine reduces inhibitions and impairs judgement, making people more susceptible to risky sexual behavior and exposure to HIV. It can often lead to dental problems where teeth rot or fall out, often referred to as "meth mouth."

Rodney Godwin, who's been clean now for more than three years, says it was his cocaine dealer who made the meth that he first tried in his early twenties.

"He would always say, 'Here try this, I just made this, here try this.' It wasn't really my thing at the time but over the years cocaine became less available and meth became way more available."

After being addicted to alcohol and drugs for about twenty years, it was the threat of a six year jail sentence and a promise of leniency that finally got Godwin into a rehabilitation program at the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center.

Ken Swazer, the intake coordinator at the rehab center says the program is six months, with high expectations on the men who are there to get help.

But, Godwin credits the program, and Alcoholics Anonymous with helping him stop his cycle of abuse.

"At AA they say eventually you'll have a spiritual awakening if you work the steps of the program," Godwin said. "Well before I even knew what the steps of the program was, somewhere in there I had a spiritual awakening because I ended up here and I think God led me to this program and then when I got here not only did he lead me here, but he lead me to AA as well."

The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center program is only for men, but Swazer said there is bed space available. For more information he can be reached at ken.swazer@usw.salvationarmy.org.