Officials concerned about kava consumption - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Officials concerned about kava consumption

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - A drink native to the Pacific Region is becoming more and more popular around the island. While it's not illegal as it's a beverage derived from a root, its effects have become a concern to authorities who say the drink impairs the individual's mobility skills.

"We are seeing more and more of this type of beverage being consumed by not only Micronesians, but even some locals. Chamorro folks have been introduced to that drink and think if they are stopped they won't be arrested," said Captain Paul Suba with the Guam Police Department. The agency's Highway Patrol Division has seen an increase in motorists who are found driving under the influence of kava.  Kava, when translated in Greek, even means "intoxicating". The roots of the plant are used to create a drink that is intended to act as a sedative. 

Captain Suba says the drink has caught the attention of the courts and the Attorney General's Office, telling KUAM News, "It can impair the individual whether they are driving or not but what we are looking at is when they are operating a motor vehicle on our highways or even pedestrians that are intoxicated as they go out onto the highway and present a danger to themselves or a motorist."

University of Guam public administration assistant professor Dr. Ansito Walter is the former governor of Chuuk. "I know these are ceremonial and taken on special occasions, maybe it can be consumed by others on a regular basis, but I know when they do it it is traditionally," he said, adding that side-effects usually are dizziness.

The kava plant is called Piper Methysticum, Latin for "pepper intoxicating". It has sedative and anesthetic effects, but it's something GPD's Lt. Art Paulino admits a breathalyzer cannot pickup. "You can get intoxicated by other substances out there that we may not be able to test for at the moment, but the officer looks at your driving pattern, you're behavior you will be arrested from the onset," he explained.

Dr. Walter said, "If they don't know how to do it, don't take it. The drinking problems we have, I always believe that as a community we can help with better communication with those that are in need."

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