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Street Drug Abuse in Hawaii

What Are Street Drugs?

Street drugs are recreational, mind-altering drugs that have little to no medical value. They are either outright illegal, or only legal with a prescription and when dispensed by a pharmacy or hospital. Heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, crack cocaine, “club drugs” like ecstasy, and psychoactives like LSD and PCP are considered street drugs. Synthetic designer drugs have also become more commonly seen in recent years, substances like “flakka” or “gravel” that are highly dangerous.

The federal government regards marijuana as a street drug, but some states do not. Like many states, Hawaii has provisions for the medical use of marijuana. Those using it must have a prescription and there are strict limitations on how much they can possess and grow at one time. The medical marijuana must be obtained within the state from a licensed dispensary. It cannot be brought into or out of the state, and buying on the street is not legal even with a prescription.


Abuse of Street Drugs in Hawaii

Since most of these drugs do not have a valid medical use, any use of them can be considered abuse, and any amount of possession or use will carry criminal penalties. With some of the highly addictive drugs like heroin and meth, it does not take a very long period of regular use to develop a physical dependency.

The most recent White House Drug Control Update identifies marijuana and methamphetamine as the two leading drugs of abuse by far in Hawaii. There is some amount of abuse of cocaine, heroin and club drugs, but it is vastly dwarfed by the use of marijuana and meth. The Hawaii drug market is somewhat unique due to its distance from the mainland and relative isolation from the rest of the world. On the mainland, most illegal drugs are now smuggled into the United States by Mexican drug cartels. All types of drugs are also smuggled into Hawaii, but they tend to come from sources in Asia instead, and in smaller numbers. Marijuana can be grown in secret on the islands, however, and meth is also produced clandestinely in homes around the state. Thus, these two drugs are more widely available than others.

Hawaii was actually the “early adopter” of meth in the United States, with the drug first appearing there by way of Chinese criminal organizations in the early 1980s. Use of meth around the state is higher than the national average, and 35 percent of men in jail in the state are there for a crime connected to meth in some way. The National Drug Intelligence Center identifies the Big Island, Oahu, Kauai and Molokai as the centers of meth distribution on the islands.


Common Street Drugs

Like opiate pain pills, heroin is derived from the opium poppy and is a synthetic drug. Unlike pain pills, there is no legal use for heroin and it is only sold illegally on the street. The federal government regards it as a Schedule I drug. It is also highly addictive, more so than the commonly prescribed pain pills like OxyContin. Since heroin is only available illegally, it is very difficult to tell how pure it is or what dangerous substances it may have been cut with. Completely pure heroin is white in color, but there are also white substances it can be mixed with.

Methamphetamine is also commonly referred to as ice or crystal meth. It is a very powerful stimulant that can potentially keep users awake for days. Meth is a Schedule II drug as it does have some limited medical application and can be prescribed for extreme cases of obesity and narcolepsy.

Cocaine almost exclusively come from South American countries, and as such is not as widely prevalent in Hawaii as it is in the mainland. However, it is still available, along with its more dangerous and inexpensive counterpart crack cocaine. Like meth, these are potent stimulants, but the effects are usually more intense yet last for a shorter time. Cocaine is sometimes referred to as the “rich man’s drug” because it is more expensive than other street drugs, and the short duration of its effects cause addicts to spend incredible amounts of money on it.


Health Effects of Street Drugs

Heroin users can usually be identified by prominent track marks on their arms, legs or feet. These are left by intravenous injection, the most common means of administering the drug. People high on heroin are often lethargic and may fall asleep suddenly during the day, even in social situations. Overdose death can be caused by fatally slowed respiration, and the risk is greatly increased when combined with other “downers” like alcohol and barbiturates. Long-term heroin abuse also puts users at elevated risk for heart, kidney and liver disease as well as serious brain damage.

Death by meth overdose is usually due to cerebral hemorrhage. Long-term users put themselves at elevated risk for brain damage and permanent psychotic symptoms that are similar to those of paranoid schizophrenia. Chronic meth users also often look like they have aged very rapidly. The notorious oral deterioration known as “meth mouth” is a combination of a tendency to grind teeth while high, inhibition of saliva production and meth users generally disregarding their hygiene and chugging sugary drinks while they are on the drug.

Most cocaine users insufflate (snort) the drug, so they can be identified by red noses and a tendency to sniffle or rub their nose a lot. Overdose deaths are possible by heart attack. Those who overdose but do not die can experience delusions and panic attacks. Long-term cocaine abuse gradually grates away at the soft tissue in the nostril, and in extreme cases the cartilage separating the two nostrils has been worn away entirely.


Treatment for Street Drug Abuse and Addiction

If you or someone you know are struggling with an addiction to street drugs, the first step toward recovery is to call a help line at a licensed and certified drug treatment facility. These help lines are free and are often available 24 hours a day. Staff at one of these local Hawaii facilities can answer your questions and direct you toward the first step in your recovery effort.