Hawaii drug treatment centers see opiate addictions soar

Hawaii drug treatment centers see opiate addictions soar

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii substance abuse treatment centers are seeing an alarming increase in people addicted to pain medications.

"We're seeing people in treatment who are over 50, which we hardly saw. And we're seeing a lot more youth who are getting into their parent's medicine cabinet," said Alan Johnson, president of Hina Mauka.

He said 7 percent of adults treated at Hina Mauka admit to being addicted to opiates, like Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Percocet or Vicodin. A few years ago it was less than 1 percent.

Perhaps the scariest element of opiates is their wide appeal: Those who find themselves addicted include the young and the old, the homeless and affluent professionals.

Robert Parke, senior counselor at Ku Aloha Ola Mau, a drug treatment facility on Nimitz Highway, says opiates lead people from all walks of life into the same deadly spiral.

"They'll do anything to get that high or that fix or that drug," he said.

"Before you know it they're not getting it from the doctors anymore," added Ku Aloha Ola Mau's Leilani Madrid. "They're going off on the streets and getting more because they need more than what the doctors are prescribing."

Madrid said those street drugs are more potent, and so can put people at greater risk.

Johnson, of Hina Mauka, said about one third of drug overdoses in Hawaii now involve pain medications.

"What's really frightening is it's a very sophisticated drug and it has major impact to your brain," Johnson said.

But, health care providers stress, there is help.

"If they're honest and willing, we can help them and support them to get to a place of sobriety," Parke said.

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