Hawaii sees growth in drug addicts using 'vape pens' to get high

Hawaii sees growth in drug addicts using 'vape pens' to get high

Vaping has taken off in recent years, including as a way to help people quit smoking.

But now the largest substance abuse treatment center in Hawaii is trying to raise the alarm about vaping, which they say is the newest way to get high.

"Vaping is becoming really big here for illicit drugs because we have a smokable culture," said Alan Johnson, president and CEO of Hina Mauka drug treatment facility in Kaneohe.

The facility helps more than 2,500 people annually, and is seeing a growing number of patients who report they were vaping methamphetamine and other dangerous drugs.

Johnson said the biggest concern about the trend is that vaping can be done anywhere -- out in the open -- without drawing concern.

"Parents have no idea what's going on," Johnson said.

He added that almost any drug that can be turned into a liquid can be vaped. That includes cocaine and marijuana.

"If you see a lot of cough syrup in your teenager's car, you should be concerned," he said.

Johnson says vaping Nyquil, in particular, has become popular among students. It causes users to hallucinate. "The kids say it's good because it's easy to get, people think it's safe," Johnson said.

Lawmakers are already working to crack down on this issue. "I think we could see on the horizon that e-cigarettes could be used for all types of drugs," said state Rep. Della Belatti, chairwoman of the House Health Committee.

In the last legislative session, a bill was passed to outlaw the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 21.

Meanwhile, authorities acknowledge that identifying people vaping drugs is nearly impossible. That's because you can't tell what's in a vape pen until it's tested in a forensic laboratory.

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