Fentanyl meeting discusses youth addiction and growing amount of drug found on Big Island

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On Thursday, concerned community members gathered at the Clem Akina Park Community Center for a presentation on addiction and the dangers of fentanyl.

Representatives from the East Hawaii Drug Free Coalition, Hawaii Health and Harm Reduction Center, Blue Zones Project, West Hawaii Community Health Center, Hawaii Police Department and several other organizations were in attendance, pointing to the statistic that every 13 days, someone on the Big Island dies of a drug overdose, mostly associated with fentanyl.

“This is an island-wide problem,” said Bay Clinic CEO Kimo Alameda, who led the “Choose Not to Use” presentation.

“Fentanyl is now the number one cause of death among Americans between the ages of 18 and 45,” he said.

The fentanyl task force, made up of public and private institutions, focuses on young people, citing addiction as a pediatric disease that begins in early childhood. The presentation stated that 90% of people struggling with addiction reported using drugs before the age of 18.

“How we frame addiction is important,” Alameda said, suggesting that those who want to experiment should wait. “Wait until you’re 25, when at least your brain is fully developed. At least you can give your brain a chance. So, to our young people: be kind to your spirit.

The Hawaii Police Department has seen an increase in the presence of fentanyl, with police recovering 1,352 counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl sent from Washington to Kailua-Kona in June.

“Before 2020, annual statewide fentanyl seizures were less than one pound,” HPD Capt. Thomas A. Shopay said in a news release. “But from 2020 to 2021, the island of Hawaii was responsible for about 30 pounds of the state’s 53 pounds total fentanyl seizures.”

Ingesting just 0.002 grams of the drug results in “certain death,” according to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics.

“The increase is troubling because very small amounts of fentanyl, sometimes an amount equivalent to a few grains of salt, can be deadly,” Shopay said.

Alameda addressed the increased presence of the drug during the presentation.

“There has been an 81% increase on the Big Island in overdose deaths over the past 18 months,” he said.

The presentation also included a demonstration on the application of Narcan, a drug used to treat overdoses.

“It’s a miracle drug that we have now to keep people alive,” Alameda said. “It’s basically harmless, too. If you use it on someone who isn’t taking fentanyl, it doesn’t hurt that person.

Local substance abuse resources listed by the task force include: West Hawaii Community Health Center, Bay Clinic, Big Island Substance Abuse Council, Lokahi Treatment Centers, Hawaii Health & Harm Reduction Center, and Coordinated Access Resource Entry System, or CARES line, which can be reached at (808) 753-6879.

Email Grant Phillips at [email protected]


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