Heroin has become a growing problem in Hawaii, much like in the rest of the United States. Residents here are 2,000 miles away from the mainland, but that hasn't stopped opioid abuse from taking over the islands.
In Kauai, officials reported that black tar heroin seizures were on the rise and have increased significantly since the last report in 2015. With it harder to get prescription opioids, it's believed that more people in Hawaii are turning to heroin to support their addictions. Heroin is the best alternative they can find, but it's extremely dangerous. Many street drugs end up mixed with others, potentially leading to overdoses.
According to Myles Breiner, heroin use is on the rise, and more people are getting arrested carrying small amounts. Overdose deaths have also increased by around 83 percent over the course of only eight years.
Heroin: A risky alternative
Heroin is a dangerous alternative to prescription opioids, but it is sometimes all people can access. The problem is not only that the drug is illegal, it's that dealers may mix it with other substances and make it lethal. Adding fentanyl, for instance, increases the likelihood of an overdose death. The synthetic opiate is extremely potent.
Imprisonment isn't the only option
People accused of using heroin often started out with chronic pain issues or needed opiates to function. Due to a decrease in the availability of the drugs and an increase in their bodies' dependency, many turn to street drugs to avoid withdrawal symptoms. For them, it's no longer a question of surviving pain but a question of avoiding serious side effects from coming off the medications they were previously prescribed.
Many of the people who use heroin or fentanyl today didn't set out to use drugs illicitly or to become addicted. Addictions often take time to develop, and with opiates prescribed for long-term pain, patients had few options once their prescriptions ran out.
Individuals in these situations don't deserve to go to prison. They need substance abuse help and support to manage their pain in better ways. There's no point in sending a person to prison over something that requires medical care. With treatment, many people who were once addicted to heroin and opiates can recover and live successful, recovered lives. Everyone deserves a chance to start over, even if they've gone as far as to overdose on illegal drugs.