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June 16 2015: Ice has no place in our paradise. Thomas M. Thornburgh

WHEN I first arrived on Saipan in 1991, and found out about ice or methamphetamines. I was surprised that it cost so much, maybe a hundred dollars for ice the size of a grain of rice, according to someone who tried, but failed to sell it to me.
Some people I know who used it said they could not survive without it. One of them even compared it to the thirst one would feel when they are lost at sea for days without water.
Over the years, I have witnessed family, friends and people I know from around island squander their lives away because of ice. I have heard stories of lying, cheating, and stealing to feed the “ice-heads” relentless pursuit of a high. I know people who were of good moral standing in our community, who have turned to ice, and now, they see me and say “Can I borrow $20?” and when I say “I do not have it,” they say, “What about $10? How about $5, do you have that?” After that, then they ask “how much do you have on you, I will pay you back double, I promise!” I also read recently in the papers how someone used the word “Zombies” to refer to ice-heads.
It is a downward spiral into a dark hole where people will lose respect for you, and fear you as if you are a wild animal or a rabid dog, who has limited control over what they say or do. For every high on ice, there is a low, and sometimes the low is too difficult to bear without another high. Again, like Zombies. Our people suffer trauma of all kinds because the itch to get a fix, to an ice addict, trumps even their own family!
When you read the papers nowadays, the judiciary has their hands full because of ice cases, just like the cops have their hands full. Methamphetamine is in print in the Variety and the Tribune, as well as on our local cable TV news. I remember in the middle to late 1990’s there was a home invasion where ice-heads killed a mother in front of her kids. As a matter of fact I believe that many of the homicides in the CNMI are directly related to ice. A good number of our robberies if not all of them, can be chalked up to ice. Divorces, prostitution, kidnapping, sexual abuse of minors, abuse and neglect of our elderly, and disturbing the peace, are the issues ice has contributed to our community.
I was privileged last week when I attended a luncheon with the commissioner of DPS who spoke up against ice. He related ice to many of the issues DPS is currently facing. I understand from Commissioner Deleon Guerrero that the purity of the meth we see on island is something like 96 to 99 percent pure. DPS and partners, have since last year, started the “War on Ice,” according to the commissioner. He believes though that eradication of ice is possible, if we all work together against ice in our islands.
The Community Guidance Center’s Chris and Herb came out on the news a week or so ago reminding our people that there is counseling available. They also stressed the importance of family around an addict to help them with their addiction. They want our people who are addicted to know that there is help to leave meth.
This is a full contrast from our islands of love, where we welcome people from all over the world, with open arms. Tourism is our bread and butter. Now our visitors are advised to keep their valuables in a safety box or out of sight when they park at our beaches. How unbecoming of an island paradise, how unwelcoming to our visitors!
Being that I work for disability rights, I know that people who are trying to recover by showing proof of attending narcotics anonymous or staying sober can avail themselves of protections provided by the American’s with Disability Act or ADA. Since I sometimes work on Tinian and Rota, I see the ice epidemic in the CNMI up close. On Tinian, it is said by locals that “ice is like rice,” as it is readily available, and $5 can get you high. On Rota, we read about ice trafficking on planes that fly in and out of Luta.
Nothing will happen until our people actively and openly talk about meth then maybe we will begin to agree that ice is a great issue that needs great effort by a great number of our community members to fight it in our islands. If we agree that our goal is to reduce the use of ice in our islands, then we have to think outside the box and plan a route that may not be conventional, but ultimately, will lead to our goal of reducing the ice epidemic in the CNMI. Since we in Micronesia traditionally hand down our knowledge through stories, maybe this can be a medium that you will appreciate…
Once upon a time, there was a canoe, on which six men were heading north from the Caroline Islands. They traveled for three days heading north, then abruptly, the navigator changed directions, and steered the canoe east all through the night. By morning, the others on board started whispering amongst themselves about why they were heading east when they were supposed to go north to Saipan, they felt lost and were not sure they were on the correct route. At last, one of them built up the courage to ask the navigator, who immediately stopped chanting, and after a great pause, said “Sometimes to end up in the north, you have to go east and west.”
We have to educate ourselves to understand ice. Then share what we learn about it with others. Let us raise awareness of ice in our community now, and by any means necessary to spare our people and islands. I believe ice has no place in our paradise.
For more on disabilities, the ADA, addiction, or trauma, please do not hesitate to contact your Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems Inc. at telephone numbers 235-7273 or 4; fax 235-7278; or online at
The writer is an NMPASI program manager.