Expert: Worrisome rates of drug abuse among Hawaii’s youth could fuel surge in crime

Drugs and crime ― the two often go hand in hand, including among kids.
Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 4:13 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 17, 2022 at 4:35 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Drugs and crime ― the two often go hand in hand, including among kids.

Now a new study shows more of Hawaii’s youth are getting caught up in the cycle of addiction.

And in some cases, it’s translating to violence.

That’s what police say happened Monday night when two boys ― ages 15 and 16 ― allegedly walked into Arisu Bar and Grill in Kalihi and dragged a 60-year-old woman to the ground trying to steal her purse.

It happened just after 10 p.m. Sources say the boys were armed with a slingshot.

They’re accused of rushing in and assaulting the woman while she was eating.

HNN confirmed officers arrested the teens blocks away near the corner of Waiakamilo and Kaumualii streets.

During a pat down, sources say, the 16-year-old had what appeared to be a meth pipe.

“It does not surprise me that we see teenagers using such highly addictive drugs,” said Kenneth Lawson, faculty specialist at the William S. Richardson School of Law.

According to new figures, roughly 1 in every 10 middle and high school students in Hawaii report a probable substance use disorder indicating a need for treatment. The Hawaii Student Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Use Survey also shows treatment need increases by grade, more than doubling from middle school to high school.

Youth aren’t just experimenting with alcohol, nicotine and marijuana. The study showed students as young as eighth grade were also trying meth, opiates and cocaine.

Lawson, a law school instructor, knows first-hand how quickly addiction can consume someone’s life and the lengths users are willing to go to get high. “I’ve been in recovery going on 16 years now,” he said.

“(For drugs) you’ll see people breaking into people’s houses, breaking into cars, stealing whatever they can to get the money to feed their habit. So this addiction effects us all.”

For years, Hawaii has had a shortage of beds where people can detox, especially on the neighbor islands. There’s also a need for more youth drug treatment programs.

Lawson believes with the rise of fentanyl, the state’s drug problems are only going to get worse.

“So we need to think proactively,” he said. “Get more treatment facilities for our juveniles and others.”

Meanwhile, HPD confirms the teens involved in Monday night’s robbery attempt are awaiting charges.

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