HONOLULU (KHON2) — Two people overdosing in a Big Island bar has officials warning the public that fentanyl has the potential to kill.
“Fentanyl is here and fentanyl will kill you,” said Gary Yabuta, Hawaii High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area director.
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That’s just part of the message Yabuta wants to share with the public reminding them of the very real dangers illicit drugs pose.
Yabuta said the Big Island is especially feeling the impacts.
Dr. Michael McGrath works at the Ohana Addiction Treatment Center and Kona Community Hospital.
He said there are more overdoses with people who thought they were buying a drug, but it ended up having fentanyl in it.
“A couple of persons were in a local bar and they thought they had bought what they assumed was cocaine. And they took just a couple insufflations or snorts of the cocaine and immediately fell out,” McGrath explained. “Luckily, the bartender knew what to do and started CPR and called EMS.”
McGrath said another person thought he was taking Xanax.
“He had consumed that thinking it was Xanax turned out to fentanyl in it. He immediately passed out fell out and got in an automobile accident,” said McGrath.
While they survived, not everyone is as lucky.
Yabuta said, there were more than 230 fatal drug overdoses in 2021, at least 50 due to Fentanyl, many of them in Hawaii County.
Its potency is what makes it so deadly.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid is 50 to more potent than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
McGrath stated you can overdose from just touching it.
The Hawaii Police Department said, 60% of the fentanyl seized in the state, has been on the Big Island.
“Being a first responder, what concerns me, is that we know its in our community,” said Chris Honda, the Hawaii Fire Department battalion chief.
According to Honda, they responded to 16 overdose calls in January.
And while the number dipped to just two calls in February, he said they’ve already responded to six overdose calls to date in March.
Honda said Narcan was used in the majority of those calls.
His message to the public, “Please don’t turn a blind eye to it, it affects everyone. Honestly, I see a lot of it in the middle, to upper-class individuals who have money.”
Those on the front lines are also urging the public to keep Narcan on hand.
Narcan reverses the effects of a narcotic overdose and it’s easy to use.
Honda said it can mean the difference between life and death for someone you love.
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A request form for Narcan can be found here.