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Lethal opiate fentanyl found in some Hawaii street drugs

Updated: Nov. 19, 2018 at 5:24 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The powerful narcotic blamed for a sharp increase in deadly overdoses on the mainland is showing up more often in Hawaii, experts say.

Hawaii Health and Harm Reduction Center Executive Director Heather Lusk said while fentanyl is a type of opioid, it’s 100 times more potent than heroin.

Over the past several months, the center handed out 300 fentanyl test strips to drug users statewide.

“We wanted to see if our folks would use the strips and if they used them would they find anything. Both of those answers were yes,” Lusk said.

She said results showed the lethal narcotic fentanyl was present on every island, except Kauai, oftentimes cut into drugs like methamphetamine and heroin.

The findings didn’t come as a surprise to law enforcement expert Tommy Aiu.

“I received a briefing not too long ago, maybe six months ago, that it first started appearing,” Aiu said.

In addition to being cheap, the synthetic painkiller is also extremely potent. Just a small amount coming in contact with the skin can trigger a fatal reaction.

Aiu says the majority of Hawaii’s supply is likely being made underground and smuggled into the state.

“Fentanyl is only imported,” said Aiu. “Either as a pharmaceutical grade or clandestinely made. I suspect most of the fentanyl that’s coming is clandestinely made.”

While fentanyl test strips aren’t 100 percent accurate or FDA-approved, Lusk says they can help addicts avoid a fatal overdose.

“People may not look for signs of overdose if they don’t realized they’re getting exposed,” said Lusk. “They can hopefully make some different decisions based on that information.”

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