Alaska has one of the worst incidences of drug and alcohol abuse in the entire United States. What is even more disconcerting is the low rates of substance abuse treatment for individuals who reside in the state. A national survey conducted in 2012-2013 found that Alaska is in the top ten nationwide among states with substance abuse issues. State law enforcement report that prescription drugs, alcohol, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and marijuana are the most common drugs abused.
Alcohol is the most pervasive illicit substance abused in the state with rural areas more adversely affected. Bootlegging is a problematic source as bottles of alcohol are purchased legally in areas for minimal cost and then resold to “dry” markets for a considerably marked up premium.
Heroin remains a constant problem due to illegal importation from drug couriers and high-level drug trafficking rings operating out of Mexico, Colombia and Southeast Asia. The trend of heroin use has been on the rise all over the country and Alaska has followed suit. Its use is seen across a variety of demographic and socioeconomic boundaries.
Powdered cocaine is more abundant in rural village areas while crack rock cocaine is prevalent throughout the more urban markets such as Anchorage and Fairbanks. Many of the drug cartels have their hand in the cocaine market and resell their product at a much inflated price because of the unique isolated geography of Alaska.
Two different kinds of methamphetamine are available in Alaska, one that is produced domestically in stealth laboratories, and the other which is smuggled into Alaska from the other lower 48 states. Despite the continued use of methamphetamine the overall trend is down thanks to the crackdown by authorities on the sale of pseudoepinephrine, which is found in over-the-counter cold medications.
OxyContin, Oxycodone and Hydrocodone are all major contributors to the overall prescription drug epidemic sweeping the country the past decade. Authorities have cited these drugs as responsible for the surge in crime in the area as well. The method for obtaining these prescription drugs varies but is largely due to illegal diversion, prescription forgeries, doctor-shopping, pharmacy burglary and purchases made over the internet. Other prescription drugs commonly abused in Alaska include Vicodin, Percodan, Lortab, Percocet and even certain anabolic steroids.
Marijuana is the most abused of all drugs in Alaska thanks to an especially potent indoor hydroponic strain originating from within the region known as Alaskan Thunder Fucks. Alaska is considered by authorities to be a “Marijuana exporting state,” because of the extreme potency of the strains cultivated there. A bill called HB149 was introduced to legislation in 2006 and signed by the then Governor Frank Murkowski which retroactively criminalized marijuana.
The need for an effective detox and rehab treatment presence in Alaska is sorely lacking and measures must be taken to fill this void. If the state is to have any success in battling the current drug epidemic they will have to develop initiatives aimed at increasing the amount of recovery and treatment missions.