Overdose Epidemic: Fentanyl-Related Deaths on the Rise in Hawaii

HONOLULU, Hawaii – Fueled by the increased use of fentanyl, Hawaii has witnessed a concerning rise in fatal overdoses last year. Data from the state’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program reveals a disturbing spike in deaths in Maui County in 2023. Despite steady figures throughout the year, Maui did not see a significant increase in fatalities after the August wildfires.

First responders across the state have been responding to multiple mass overdoses in recent weeks, highlighting the escalating drug crisis. In one weekend alone in April, Thomas Square in Oahu was the site of five overdose-related calls. Tragically, two men lost their lives the next day following suspected fentanyl use in the park.

The surge in 911 calls has put a strain on first responders, with paramedic supervisor Sunny Johnson noting the increased demand for resources and the subsequent impact on response times. While Hawaii Island experienced a decline in drug overdose deaths in 2023, other counties reported alarming figures. Honolulu reported 220 fatal overdoses, Kauai saw a jump to 30 deaths, and Maui County experienced a 49% increase from 43 to 64 deaths.

With most fatalities still attributed to methamphetamine use, the slowing trend in meth-related deaths is overshadowed by a 35% rise in fentanyl-related fatalities statewide. Despite the influx of drugs into the state, the growing availability of the antidote, Naloxone or Narcan, is making a difference in saving lives.

According to experts, widespread use of Narcan has helped mitigate the impact of fatal overdoses from fentanyl and other opioids. The Hawaii Health & Harm Reduction Center offers free Narcan distribution and training on how to administer the medication, emphasizing the importance of early intervention in overdose cases. As Hawaii grapples with the worsening drug crisis, efforts to provide access to life-saving resources remain crucial in combating the rising tide of overdose deaths.