The North Dakota Attorney General’s office Tuesday released a summary evaluation of the status of substance abuse treatment and trends in the state.
The 2014 Comprehensive Status and Trends Report includes analysis of adult and youth alcohol and drug consumption, offense arrests and traffic accidents as result of intoxication.
Youth tobacco and
A state Department of Public Instruction’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey was completed voluntarily and anonymously in spring 2013 by 6,921 middle school students in grades 7-8 and 10,516 high school students.
Multiple interventions and prevention strategies have decreased tobacco use among youth, but the programs have not been successful at reducing the use of chewing tobacco, snuff or dip statewide, according to the survey.
Use of alcohol by teens has decreased, including drinking and driving and binge drinking; however, the survey found 35 percent of students in grades 7-8 and 58 percent of students in grades 9-12 agree that in their community, drinking among teenagers is acceptable.
DUI laws in effect
In 2012, there were 147 fatal crashes resulting in 170 fatalities, according to the North Dakota Highway Patrol. Fifty-two percent of those crashes were alcohol related.
Drunk drivers were responsible for the deaths of 87 people on North Dakota roads, according to the report.
Legislative changes to the state’s DUI laws took effect July 1, 2013, including enhanced penalties and increased fines for all DUI offenses, a two-tiered first offense penalty (based on the driver’s blood alcohol level), and creation of a separate offense for refusal.
“It is too early to determine whether these changes will have the effect on reducing the number of alcohol-related offenses and traffic fatalities that was intended by the legislature, although the ND Department of Transportation reported a 10 percent reduction in the total number of DUI offenses for the six-month period after the laws changes…,” according to the report.
Drug abuse, prevention of use
Seventeen percent of high school students have taken a prescription drug, such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall, Ritalin or Xanax without a doctor’s prescription, one or more times in their life, according to the behavior survey.
This mirrors the national rate.
Adult drug offense arrests increased from 2,662 in 2011 to 2,872 in 2012, according to the state report. Thirty percent of drug arrests were for narcotics and other drugs, including methamphetamine.
“Almost non-existent in the state in 2008, use of synthetic drugs skyrocketed in 2011 and 2012,” according to the state crime laboratory. “Synthetic drug submissions to the crime lab increased from 311 in 2010 to 1,470 in 2012.
“These so-called herbal products were sold openly and promoted as safe alternatives to street drugs,” according to the report.
In November 2012, the attorney general took emergency action in conjunction with the North Dakota Board of Pharmacy to ban the sales of these “deadly synthetic products.”
As a result of the combined approach, synthetic drug arrests have fallen significantly and submissions of these synthetics to the crime lab decreased 75 percent in 2013.
While alcohol continues to be the number one primary substance reported by adults receiving treatment through the regional human service centers, methamphetamine use by adults increased by 10 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to the state Department of Human Services.
Meth becoming a serious problem
The Bureau of Criminal Investigation provided a statistical analysis of crimes and arrests beginning in 1990.
Drug arrests have increased by 286 percent in the past 22 years, from 745 in 1990 to 2,872 in 2012, according to the BCI report.
“Meth lab busts have been reduced by 97 percent since 2003, when the state legislature first passed laws restricting sales of over-the-counter medicines used in the manufacture of meth,” according to the report. “However, meth is once again becoming a serious drug problem challenging North Dakota law enforcement.”
In 2013, 53 percent of state’s cases were drug related, and 38 percent of those cases involved methamphetamine.
There was a notable increase in drug trafficking organizations, with direct connections to cartels in Mexico.
“These DTOs are operating predominantly in the western part of North Dakota,” according to the report. “Recent investigations lead us to believe that multiple pounds of meth are being trafficked through the Bakken on a weekly basis. Other drug trafficking and use has increased as well including prescription drug abuse, cocaine, heroin and high potency marijuana.”
While BCI drug case numbers have increased, the complexity of these cases present “even greater challenges and a more dangerous environment for agents.”
“The focus of BCI’s enforcement efforts have transitioned from investigating and arresting local dealers who dealt in grams and ounces to investigations of dealers distributing many pound of product,” according to the report. “The vast majority of drug dealers now are armed and organized, with potentially more tendencies towards violence.”
© 2014 Williston Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service — if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.