Amid worrisome surge in opioid deaths, officials confirm Hawaii 14-year-old died of fentanyl overdose
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city Medical Examiner confirms a 14-year-old Big Island girl who died last November overdosed on fentanyl. The news comes amid growing alarm about the drug’s spread in Hawaii.
A federal anti-drug task force says the powerful narcotic is being smuggled into Hawaii by Mexican cartels and that it’s killing more people in the islands than ever before.
According to the state Health Department, fentanyl is now the leading cause of opioid-related death in Hawaii.
The drug is so potent, experts say just a kernel can kill you.
“So small you can barely even see it,” said High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Executive Director Gary Yabuta.
Five years ago, fentanyl was almost unheard of in Hawaii. Now, it’s rapidly becoming a public health crisis.
“It’s unfortunately in our schools, it’s everywhere. In our rural districts. It’s not just an urban drug. It’s a rural drug,” said Yabuta. “The Big Island, unfortunately, lost a 14-year-old girl from fentanyl.”
Law enforcement sources say in November the girl recorded herself snorting a substance on the social media app TikTok shortly before she died.
The Medical Examiner’s Office ruled her death as accidental.
“People don’t realize they’re coming in contact with fentanyl most of the time and I think that’s where the harm comes in,” said Heather Lusk, head of the Hawaii Health and Harm Reduction Center.
She says the powerful narcotic is being found in counterfeit pills.
It’s also turning up in street drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine.
Data from the state Health Department shows at least 41 people died in Hawaii last year from synthetic opioid-related drug overdoses.
Officials believe most if not all of those deaths were fentanyl-related.
That’s nearly a 600% increase since 2017.
“In the past, someone might get a pill at a party or use something that they weren’t worried about,” Lusk said. “Now with a little bit of fentanyl that could be a deadly experiment.”
Yabuta said the fentanyl they’re finding in Hawaii is being shipped in through parcel services.
Once it gets here, he said, the tainted drugs are oftentimes being sold on social media.
Now, officials are urging parents to talk to their children about the fentanyl ― warning them about its dangers.
“They should also know that Narcan is the only way you can save yourselves from a fentanyl overdose,” Yabuta said. Narcan, or Naloxone, can reverse an opioid overdose almost immediately.
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