Over the years, there has been a rise in methamphetamine use on Guam.
Just the previous year, we have seen a massive drug bust that occurred when a man was caught with 18 pounds of methamphetamine in his possession. The meth, acquired from the mail, was reported to have a street value of well over $5 million.
The annual report of 2015 indicates there have been over 233 cases in juvenile drug court and 229 cases in the adult drug court, which was double the amount of cases since 2014.
In December 2016, The Guam Daily Post devoted an entire Sunday edition of their paper to report on the island’s meth problem. On that edition, an article asked the question of “Are we entering another ‘ice age?”
As we face this dangerous era of methamphetamine abuse, one may ask: is Guam properly equipped to both assist those who are suffering from substance abuse and prevent those from acquiring methamphetamine altogether?
The topic of this current piece covers the first part of this question—whether the island has the means to assist those needing treatment for meth addiction?
Through my research, I have found there are four locations in total that provides treatment for those undergoing probation for substance abuse and those who just wishes to recover from substance abuse.
New Beginning started as the drug and alcohol branch of the Guam Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse and during the transition into Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center the drug and alcohol division split off and became New Beginnings to symbolize a new start for those who are undergoing substance treatment.
New Beginnings contracts with three other organization to help offer services and housing for those who are recovering from issues that resulted from substance abuse. These organizations are Salvation Army Lighthouse Recovery Center, Sagan Na Homlo Drug and Alcohol Treatment Facility for Youth also known as Sanctuary Inc, and finally Oasis.
When question about the state of treatment on Guam, Athena Duenas the Director of New Beginnings stresses a point “that no one truly chooses to be an addicted, they just become an addict, it is a disease and it is a disease in the brain…. Treatment is important because treatment is all about getting someone’s life back on track”.
Within the last fiscal year(Currently as of 2017) of 2016, there has been 958 accounts of individuals who have gone to substance treatment.
The rise in the methamphetamine epidemic is also mirrored in the rise of patients who are undergoing treatment.
A problem in this data is that certain amount patient that attends one of these treatment centers also attends the other treatment centers which may or may not skew amounts of total patients undergoing treatment.
The general mission of these facilities is get one’s life in track.
Jeremiah Santos, a peer recovery specialist at New Beginnings, the goal of the treatment program is to “do everything it takes to help those who are addicted to recover from themselves and get them back to society and back to their family.” He stresses the point that the methamphetamine problem on Guam is an epidemic and we should treat it as a disease that requiring treatment.
Mr. Santos invited me to attend a NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meeting at the New Beginnings to see a sample as to how people receive treatment.
It was compelling to see there appears to be go amounts of people who were in attendance at this meeting were around my age.
Throughout the meeting, there were those whom you see are trying to recover, evidenced by the way they engage in the conversation and how they take pride in the fact that they are staying sober.
One thing I had learned is the treatment process is based on a common practice here on Guam—one that is akin to the concepts of “inafa’maolek” and interdependence.
In a NA meeting, those who are undergoing treatment treat other members as family or friend. They show compassion and empathy for one another and they try to help motivate each other to make sure that they can overcome their addiction and come back as a proud member of society. NA establishes the concept of trust that no one will exploit or reveal the secrets that the others have spoken within the meetings.
The most important part is they help remind each other that they are not alone in the process of recovery.
No one is truly safe from substance abuse as it can happen to anyone, regardless of age, sex, and/or ethnicity and at times it seems like we forget about that fact.
No one is perfect but at times like these, we must learn to give forgive and help treat those struggling with methamphetamine addiction, rather than shun them from society. To ignore and to destroy is not going to end the epidemic, rather awareness and treatment can solve it.
Valerie K. Reyes a Director at Lighthouse Recovery Center chimes in that significant amount of crime can be prevented and lives can be saved we get those who need help the treatment they need “It is not just a legal issue but also a public health issue”. The problem is here and already affecting the people of Guam. Although it may seem like dark times are coming we should be aware that there is help out there and that no one should ever face it alone.