CHICAGO – Seizing a unique opportunity to curtail a trend before it reaches an epidemic, Governor Rod Blagojevich will launch Project X, a $2.5 million initiative targeting abuse of the illegal drugs Ecstasy and meth throughout the State of Illinois. Primarily funded through assets confiscated from drug dealers by the Illinois State Police, Project X will focus on prevention, treatment and enforcement, including a major crackdown on illegal trafficking of the drugs in partnership with federal, state and local law enforcement.
“Project X is different because it doesn't rely on one approach to stamp out a growing club drug problem but rather it is a three-pronged approach that uses prevention, treatment and enforcement,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Project X is the state’s most aggressive law enforcement crackdown against illegal trafficking of Ecstasy and meth in the state’s history. We must attack swiftly and aggressively to curtail the growing, dangerous trend these drugs have on your youth.”
The Illinois State Police (ISP) has seen the club drug trend grow rapidly. According to ISP, in 1998, over 93 grams of Ecstasy (equates to approximately 419 pills) were submitted to Illinois crime labs and by 2002 the figure increased to over 3278 grams (equates to approximately 14,754 pills). The rise of the club drug extends beyond the Chicago borders according to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA) reporting that the amount of counties submitting Ecstasy to crime labs in Illinois increased from 29 counties in 2000 to 42 counties in 2002.
As for the escalation of meth, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) report, Pulse Check, Chicago is one of 12 cities where meth availability is on the rise. ISP reports that the amount of meth seized in Illinois jumped from 3,433 grams (equates to approximately 15,448 “hits,” or doses) in 1994 to 28,002 grams (equates to approximately 126,009 “hits,” or doses) in 2002. In 1997, two dozen meth labs were seized in Illinois. In 2002, that figure jumped to 677.
With the use and trafficking of Ecstasy and meth is in the nascent stages of a disturbing trend, Project X represents a unique opportunity to stamp out the club drugs before the abuse spreads even more. Project X focuses on the following three-pronged approach:
- Prevention: Illinois residents will soon see, read and hear an aggressive, savvy Public Service campaign created to educate young people and their parents about the dangers associated with these drugs. Thanks to a partnership with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and Illinois, the candid Project X PSA’s will hit the radio and television airwaves by mid-November. In a television PSA, parents Jim and Elsa recall the life of their young daughter who died from using Ecstasy. The PSA’s for radio stations include Sooner or Later, in which young teens describe the consequences of their drug abuse. A coroner’s report is one of the Project X’s simple yet direct ads soon to be printed in newspapers across the state. Comcast Cable also agreed to join the Partnership and provide airtime for the PSA’s on their stations in Chicago and throughout the nation. $200,000 has been dedicated to the Project X’s PSA campaign.
- Treatment: The State of Illinois also recognizes the need to provide information and services to those who are starting to experiment and are at risk for substance abuse. The Illinois Department of Human Services/Office of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse (OASA) will launch a $500,000 initiative in nine universities and college areas across the state. The launch will provide intervention services for the club drugs that give more options such as clinics that offer treatment and education on how to get help.
- Enforcement: Project X represents the state’s most aggressive law enforcement crackdown against illegal trafficking of Ecstasy and meth in history. Project X dedicates $1.8 million toward enforcement. Through Project X, the state is expanding its resources committed to the multi-jurisdictional Chicago High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA)/Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Club Drugs Task Force, and enabling other multi-jurisdictional enforcement units throughout the state to use more overtime hours to undercover operations targeting these drugs. Specifically targeting the population identified as the highest risk for abuse of these drugs, the Illinois State Police is embarking on “Club U,” an investigative operation that includes targeting a student population of more than 200,000 young adults at the state’s nine major colleges and universities. In addition, the state is building a state-of-the-art tracking system to monitor seizures, arrests and regional trending patterns that will assist in identifying traffickers of the drugs.
Targeting Ecstasy: The crack cocaine of the Y Generation. Recently called the “crack cocaine of the Y generation” in a 2003 U.S. Department of Justice/Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) report, Ecstasy was cited as a drug “fast becoming the number one problem facing America’s youth today.” Despite very modest progress in curtailing use over the past year only, lifetime use of the Ecstasy among 18-25 year olds remains on the rise. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America has reported an increase of over 70 percent in teen Ecstasy abuse since 1999, and that one of every nine teenagers has reported trying the drug.
Targeting Meth: A powerfully addictive and violent drug. Meth is also a dangerous drug that has been cited by the National Institute on Drug Abuse as a drug that causes damage to the brain that is similar to damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and epilepsy. In Illinois, meth treatment admissions have tripled in only two years – from 740 in 2000 to 2,149 in 2002.
“We at the state level will do what we can to help increase awareness to residents about the dangers of these club drugs,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Project X is a comprehensive strategy that helps parents understand, dissuades kids from using and gives our law enforcement the resources they need to stamp our Ecstasy and meth in Illinois.”