Hawaii has a growing overdose problem

By Paul Drewes
Published On: Sep 29 2012 01:28:00 PM HST

Illegal drugs are dangerous and deadly, but a different kind of drug usage has turned overdoses into Hawaii's new number three killer, and you may have these drugs in your home.

HONOLULU -

Many know how dangerous and even deadly illegal drugs can be, but a different kind of drug has turned "overdoses" into Hawaii's new number three killer.

The word on Chinatown's streets is more illegal users are over-dosing on drugs.

"Half of our participants have experienced or witnessed a drug overdose in the past two years," said Heather Lusk, the Executive Director with the CHOW Project, which stands for Community Health Outreach Work.

Outreach workers have also seen first-hand what can happen from using too much of a drug, or mixing different kinds of drugs -- both can have potentially deadly results.

"A participant had just shot up some dope, and he ended up sprawled out on the ground in front of me. I kept asking him if he was OK and he would not respond to me," said CHOW outreach worker Hana Barrineau.

A heroin user named "theresa" described her terrifying overdose experiences, "It paralyses your breathing. You can't catch your breath and you can't keep your eyes open. You know you are going to go out, and if you fall asleep you are most likely not going to wake up".

But along with illegal drug overdoses, there has also been a spike in people dying from their own prescriptions.

"People with legitimate pain prescriptions are overdosing because they don't know the dosing or the drug-to-drug interactions," said Lusk.

"the annual number of fatalities has more than doubled in the last ten years," said Dan Galanis, an epidemiologist with the State Department of Health.

Last year alone, there were 109 overdose fatalities compared to just 39 in 2001.

"There are more fatal drug poisonings than people dying from car crashes, drowning, or pedestrian fatalities," said Galanis.

The large majority of OD fatalities are from opiate medications written for the victim, like oxycodone, while a small percentage comes from illegal drugs like heroin or from someone else's prescription.

To make sure those drugs don't get in the wrong hands, a prescription drug take-back was held Saturday around the state.

Unwanted medicine filled up dozens of boxes, as residents got rid of old prescription drugs.

Already, the take-back program has disposed of thousands of pounds of used medicine during the two years Hawaii's program has been around.

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