Addiction in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands
Saipan is the largest and most populated island of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth in the Western Pacific. Like other cities in the US Pacific Islands, Its landscape consists of pristine beaches, mountains, and several top-rated golf courses. Despite the beautiful environment, the island struggles with substance abuse like the majority of the United States mainland. Saipan has become a prominent hub for drug trafficking due to its position in the Pacific Ocean, particularly of meth, as it provides convenient access to the United States from the Far Eastern countries.
Drug Trafficking In and Out of Saipan
Saipan is the principal island in the Northern Mariana Island chain, acting as the commonwealth’s capital and commercial center. Because of its central location, the island serves as a major trans-pacific travel route with daily sea freight forwarding and air passenger services arriving from the United States, Europe, and Asia. This international crossroad is ideal to drug traffickers, as it provides an easy route for illegal drugs to be smuggled into Hawaii, Guam, Federated States of Micronesia, and other areas of the United States by international drug syndicates from Hong Kong, Japan, and Russia.
Additionally, members of organized crime syndicates utilize Saipan for drug distribution money laundering. Inconsistent reporting requirements for cash and wire transfers from regulated financial institutions to unregulated institutions allow the organizations to easily access Asian underground banking systems. One violent Japanese organized criminal group, the Yakuza, has succeeded in penetrating the Northern Mariana Islands business markets via the tourism industry. The growing presence of Japanese tourists enables the Japanese distributors to blend in with the local population.
Both the local Northern Marian Islands government and federal United States government have been working together for years to reduce drug distribution and monitor the activities of suspicious individuals coming to Saipan from high-risk drug countries.
Prevalence of Meth
Meth is the number one imported and distributed drug on the island of Saipan, and correlatively, the abuse of crystal methamphetamine by the local population has dramatically increased over the past decade. Most of the crystal meth smuggled into the Northern Mariana Islands is produced in Asian source areas; however, law enforcement investigations have recently revealed ties to American crystal meth distributors in California.
Meth is a highly addictive stimulant drug that produces an intense high and multiple adverse health effects in consumers. In recent years, purity levels of the drug have stayed the same while prices have decreased, indicating that meth has become increasingly available on the island. Crystal meth is typically transported into the Northern Mariana Islands from Asian countries, often transiting the Philippines and Guam. Various ethnic criminal gangs—Chamorro, Chinese, Filipino, and Japanese—and residents of Saipan distribute crystal meth in the area. Potential violence related to the distribution of meth is a concern, particularly as organized criminal groups that distribute the drug become more entrenched in the life and culture of the island.
Addiction Resources in Saipan
For years, the facilities, equipment, personnel, and training necessary to provide treatment and rehabilitation services to substance abusers in the Northern Mariana Islands was inadequate, but that has started to change. Prior to 2017, medical treatment in the commonwealth was provided through only one general hospital in Saipan. The general hospital, Commonwealth Health Center Saipan (CHC), has 86 acute beds for medical, surgical, obstetric and pediatric patients. The mental health inpatient unit that also assists with addiction is only a 9-bed locked unit.With the help of several federal and personal grants multiple strides were able to be made in the name of mental health and addiction, and Saipan became home to the commonwealth’s fist substance abuse recovery center in 2017 – HOPE Recovery Center.
With the establishment of the rehabilitation program and funding for a drug court, we knew that we needed licensed clinicians and counselors at the forefront of addressing substance abuse and eventually other social issues that have plagued our Commonwealth for decades. [HOPE] truly is a pioneering program, that I believe is the best investment in our people and in our future.
Additionally, the Saipan Community Guidance Center now provides mental health and substance use disorder services. The Community Guidance Center also provides substance misuse programs for children and teens, which has proven to be particularly successful in curbing the islands youth drug and alcohol abuse.
Getting Treatment in Saipan
Overcoming an addiction to drugs or alcohol can seem impossible, but anyone can recover from substance abuse with determination and the right support. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction in the Saipan area, contact a dedicated treatment professional today. In addition to the HOPE Recovery Center on the island, there are thousands more rehabilitation facilities across the United States mainland that can help set people on the right path to recovery.
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