Heroin in Hawaii Part 2/4: Heroin and Opioids
Kauai police are now carrying Narcan, to counteract the effects of heroin. They also link heroin addiction to opioid addiction, a problem plaguing Kauai County.
LIHUE, KAUAI - It's a new "tool of the trade" for Kauai Police: a nasal spray called "Narcan." It counteracts the effects of heroin.
"Now that I think they [Kauai Police] have started to see to be called out to respond to calls where they've got potential overdoses, my understanding is they've made the decision to deploy that out to their patrol folks," said Kauai County Prosecutor, Justin Kollar.
KPD's Deputy Chief Michael Contrades said each Narcan kit costs $70. The Community Health Outreach Work to Prevent AIDS Project - or CHOW Project - paid for two years worth of Narcan for KPD, The spray provides on-the-spot help, but its not a solution to the multitude of problems linked to heroin, like burglaries, break-in's into vehicles, and thefts.
"Those kinds of things that occur to support their drug habits," said Contrades.
Police and doctors link heroin use to the abuse of opioid medications. At the end of April, Kauai County held its 15th annual Drug Take Back Day. The county collected 273 pounds of unused or expired prescription medications.
Those drugs would up in the right hands, but what happens when the problem begins at the prescription pad?
One name that kept coming up during Island News' time on Kauai was Dr. Harold Spear. In 2009, he pled guilty to federal charges for prescribing narcotics to patients he never met. Some Kauai residents told Island News Dr. Spear gave local patients too many pills, like 90 pills for a 30 day period.
"To let him get away with what he got away with for so many years to me represents a systemic failure," said Kollar.
Officials are attacking the problem from all angles, even taking aim at drug companies. In April, Kauai County's attorney, Mauna Kea Trask, announced new legal action against the manufacturers, distributors, and marketers of opioid pain medications. Earlier this month, Hawaii U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and her colleagues in Washington introduced the "Opioid Crisis Accountability Act of 2018," to prohibit and penalize drug companies for false marketing and distribution of opioids.
"The time for holding these drug companies and leaders accountable is long overdue," said Gabbard.
County officials said these are positive steps, but Kollar said he "expects it's going to get worse before it gets better."
See the other parts of Island News' Heroin coverage: