Breaking Barriers to Meth Prevention in AAPI Communities

Methamphetamine (Meth) abuse is a serious problem across the nation, and notably prevalent in the West and Midwest among Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities.1 In recent years, AAPI community leaders in these regions have reported an increase in the private selling and production of Meth among Southeast Asian populations. The use of Meth among AAPI youth is on the rise and recent incidents involving AAPI storeowners who unknowingly permit the purchase of large amounts of precursor chemicals for Meth production2 are particularly alarming.

According to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report, about 3 percent of the overall Meth-related admissions for substance abuse treatment were AAPIs.3 In fact, among AAPIs, methamphetamine/amphetamines were the second most commonly reported illicit drugs for male admissions to substance abuse treatment (18 percent of all AAPI admissions), and they were the number one most commonly reported illicit substances for female admissions (24 percent of all AAPI admissions).4 Intake data for San Francisco-based Asian American Recovery Services Inc., showed that preference for Meth among Asians overall has climbed from No. 5 to No. 1 in the last 4 years since 2006.

AAPI community leaders have identified both the lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate education and the stigma of drug addiction as leading factors contributing to the rise of AAPI Meth-related problems. Considered taboo in most Asian communities, drug addiction and drug addicts are viewed as either failures of the family or a failure of the individual to uphold a positive image and maintain social and cultural norms.

“In my experience in working with the Korean community in Los Angeles, many in this community have been in denial for a very long time about addiction issues. Often the client’s treatment plan is undermined because parents, family members and friends continue to enable the client. Even after a client who successfully completes treatment is reunified with his or her family and living a life of recovery, often parents and family members are still too ashamed to acknowledge that someone in their family had an addiction.”  5 - Evelyne Kim, Asian American Drug Abuse Program (AADAP)

Cultural and linguistic barriers between local law enforcement and AAPI community members further inhibit communication about Meth.6 There are roughly 60 different Asian and Pacific Islander communities and 200 different dialects or languages, with each community possessing unique cultural traits that differ from region to region and community to community.7 The language of Meth may go unrecognized by local law enforcement. The Korean word for Meth is “hiroppong,” while it is called “shabu” or “bato” in the Philippines, and “Bing Du” in Chinese, literally translated into “ice poison.”

Given these gaps in understanding, how can local law enforcement work collaboratively with the AAPI community and proactively engage in crime prevention outreach efforts?

Asian Media Access, Inc. (AMA), a non-profit organization based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, has been awarded funds under the COPS FY2011 Community Policing Development (CPD) Program to provide intensive Meth education to the AAPI community and improve understanding of AAPI Meth-related issues among the law enforcement agencies that serve them. Through their ENACT (Educate and Network between AAPIs and Community-policing with Training/Technical Assistance) initiative, AMA will deliver training and develop and distribute culturally and linguistically appropriate knowledge resources on Meth use, production, and related violence to AAPI communities.

For example, translating and reproducing resources like “Have You Heard about Meth?” in Chinese, Hindi, Hmong, Korean, Laos, Vietnamese, Khmer, as well as English can help AAPI store owners learn how to identify the ingredients used to produce Meth and report large quantity buyers to law enforcement.

A similar booklet will be translated and reproduced for AAPI parents to raise awareness about the existence of Meth labs and the physical signs of Meth use. The booklet will be available in multiple AAPI languages, including Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, English, Farsi, Hindi, Korean, Khmer, Hmong, Laotian, and Vietnamese. Radio Asia8 public service announcements, website posts, posters, postcards, and educational kits will further expand the reach of this multifaceted public education campaign.

AMA will also develop a series of regional training workshops and a National Conference to promote understanding about the AAPI population and Meth-related problems to both law enforcement and the AAPI community. One training, Introduction to Community-Police Strategies, will be geared towards AAPI community members, while another training, Introduction to AAPI Communication Styles, will be geared towards supervisory-level law enforcement personnel.

Following the conclusion of the training, the trainees will be invited back to attend the National Conference on Developing Community-Police Teams and Problem Solving. The conference will include a team-building exercise that will culminate in the development of local action plans by the AAPI community and the law enforcement agencies. The idea is for these plans to be implemented when the participants return to their respective communities. Co-hosting the National Conference will be AMA’s partners in the Multi-Cultural Community Network: Upper Midwest Community Policing Institute, Minneapolis Police Department, U.S. Asian Business Council, and Midwest AAPI agencies. For more information on the ENACT program, contact Asian Media Access at or visit

For more information on the FY2011 COPS Community Policing Development Program, visit the COPS Community Policing Development web page or contact the COPS Office Response Center at 800.421.6770 or


1 An AAPI is defined as a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, the Indian subcontinent, or Southeast Asia, including, for example, Cambodia, China, Hawaii, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippine Islands, Samoa, Thailand, and Vietnam. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) 1999 - 2009: National Admissions to Substance Abuse Treatment Services), April 2011)

3 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) 1999–2009: National Admissions to Substance Abuse Treatment Services, April 2011: Table 2.2, p. 52.

4 Ibid, page 35.

8 Radio Asia is the only 24-hour Pan-Asian radio station serving the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Radio ASIA is lead by Asian Media Access (, in partner with other organizations in providing radio programs in different Asian languages.

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