Thursday, Oct. 06, 2022|
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Hawaii County’s Fentanyl Task Force has a message for the Big Island: Be kind to your mind.
Doctors, health care workers, county officials, educators and police gathered Thursday evening for the first in a series of presentations on the dangers of fentanyl — a synthetic opioid — and other drugs plaguing the island. The task force, led by Dr. Kimo Alameda, is working to bring widespread awareness and knowledge about the dangers of drug use.
“Knowledge is power, especially with youth. We hope to get this presentation out to the schools when school starts again,” said Alameda, who is CEO of the Bay Clinic. “So our message is, ‘be kind to your mind.’ Drugs make you feel good, until they don’t. And there’s a gateway pattern. If you haven’t used drugs, then don’t. Choose not to use.”
Focusing on preventing youth from using the drug in the first place, some of the speakers stressed the importance of brain development during that period of life, as well as noting that a person who begins using drugs before age 25 is 28% more likely to become addicted to a substance.
“Addiction is a pediatric disease; it starts with early use in adolescent years,” said Dr. Kevin Kunz, an addiction medicine specialist at West Hawaii Community Health Center. “We will never treat or incarcerate or bury our way out of this epidemic. Prevention is the key.”
What makes fentanyl so dangerous is that it’s often mixed in with other drugs, without the user’s knowledge, and the equivalent of two grains of salt can kill a person.
“The danger is … we found fentanyl laced in meth. We found fentanyl is cocaine. People are dying. They’re just not getting up,” Alameda said.
According to the task force, overdoses have spiked on the Big Island with a resident dying every 13 days from an overdose, mostly attributed to fentanyl.
The drug is also turning up in large amounts in the state, evidenced by more than 53 pounds of the drug being found in Hawaii last year. Thirty of those pounds were confiscated on the Big Island.
The task force will host additional events from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on June 16 at the Pahala Community Center and June 23 at Tutu’s House Waimea, and from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on June 30 at the Puueo Community Center.
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