STATE OF AFFAIRS: Opiate Abuse Down in Hawaii, Meth Use Doubles
Overdose Still Leading Cause of Injury-Related Death in Aloha State
HONOLULU, Hawaii – The 7 beautiful islands of the only state in the U.S. not connected by land to North America still remain one of the hottest vacation attractions for families all over the world. It’s beautiful beaches, mountainous terrain and friendly spirit are at the heart of her longstanding charm. She is vibrant and youthful, having only been above water approximately 10 million years, compared to the rest of North America’s ripe old age of 400 million. As beautiful and scenic as the view may be, 1.42 million inhabitants roam its setting, and statistically, some will inevitably battle the disease of addiction.
The Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office only reported 17 suicides by poisoning in 2014, and the city is the most populated in the state at 953,207. According to the State Department of Health, poisoning is the leading cause of injury-related deaths in the state, and drugs cause 9 out of 10 of those. Overdose deaths rose from 78 in 2003 to 151 in 2013. That year the Department reported 10.7 deaths per 100,000 residents, while traffic fatalities made up only 7.2.
From 2009-2013, prescription drugs were the underlying cause of death for 88% of overdoses. The deaths of men aged 25-54 were nearly double that of women.
Prescription painkillers contributed to 274 (36%) of the 756 drug overdose deaths from 2009-2013.
But there is good news for the state. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Hawaii is in a group with a handful of states at the lowest number of prescriptions by population. They report that the Aloha state only has 52 prescriptions per 100 people, compared with Tennessee’s 143 prescriptions per 100 people. Over the past 5 years, over half of the people enrolled in treatment reported staying drug-free after 6 months. According to the Hawaii State Department of Health’s 2015 Alcohol and Drug Treatment Services Report, the majority had no arrests, emergency room visits or hospitalization after discharge.
70% of people discharged from treatment were employed 6 months later.
“One of the Hawaii Department of Health’s foremost priorities is to make the recovery efforts visible, give a voice to those who have recovered, and inspire others in the community to see how valuable these programs have been,” says Director of the Hawaii State Department of Health Virginia Pressler, M.D. “We may all know a friend, neighbor or relative who may be bound by alcohol and drug abuse. These are encouraging statistics for all of us in Hawaii.”
That’s not just lip service. The state is putting their money where their mouth is. From 2010-2014, Hawaii invested an average of $17 million in state and federal funds annually in combatting addiction. They funded 24 agencies for treatment in 2014, causing a 16% increase in sites as resources for people in need of help.
Still, methamphetamine poses a problem for the state, oddly in the older population. The amount of adults over 50 years of age who reported meth as their drug of choice has doubled since 2010.
“There is still much more work that needs to be done in our community in terms of prevention and treatment,” says Chairman of the Hawaii Substance Abuse Coalition Alan Johnson. “However, we have a stronger, more comprehensive system of care to address the needs of our community.”
Hawaii’s next focus: transition and case management. The Health Department plans to submit a proposal for services early next year that would go into effect in 2017.