Crunk: Over the Counter Cocktails

In January, Big Island resident Chucky Dias Oliveira made the newspaper. He died in his sleep after drinking a concoction called Crunk.

"When they don't understand the dangers of it, they're more willing to take the risk. And we see the effects of it," Hawaii Police Dept. Det. Ian Lee Loy said.

Crunk is referred to in rap music and urban slang. It means a lot of things, including a drink that mixes soda or other beverage with an over-the-counter cough syrup and crushed prescription pain killers.

Crunk produces an intense rush that's proven dangerous.

Leonard Feliciano, director of adolescent services with the Big Island Substance Abuse Council, said a frightening fact is crunk is growing more popular with teenagers and kids.

"One of the things working with adolescents, they suffer from, I call it, the Superman complex. They think that it's not going to happen to them," he said.

A "crunking high" can cause blackouts and breathing problems. It slurs speech and motor skills.

"Imagine that kind of person behind the wheel of a car, driving down the road not being able to respond to a traffic signal, or someone turning in front of them or a pedestrian," Lee Loy said.

Big Island police blame crunk overdoses for four deaths since 2009. The toxicology report from one of the victims shows evidence of pain pills mixed into a crunk cocktail.

"They think because it's prescription it must be safe. It might have a dosage that might be harmful to them," Lee Loy said.

The Big Island Substance Abuse Council helps hundreds of students in public schools understand the danger of crunking. The kids tell them crunk use is spreading.

"They have friends that are using it. They have siblings that are using it," Feliciano said.

Big Island police have linked crunk to DUI's and other crimes. And now it's moved on campus. Some students are pushing pain killers.

"We've received information that kids in middle school and as young as elementary school are in possession of these prescription medications," Lee Loy said.

The pain pills usually come from home medicine cabinets. Substance abuse experts advise parents to learn about crunk, and especially about the danger the drink poses.

"People lay low," Feliciano said. "It's not until something unfortunate happens that we become aware."

"If you give it an opportunity it will destroy your life," Lee Loy said.

He said crunking started showing up on the Big Island four years ago. In the last year the crunk craze has taken off.

But it's not just a Big Island problem. Law enforcement and drug treatment experts said kids and young adults all over the state are dabbling with the dangerous drink and gambling with their lives.

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