|By Rob Perez, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Then he turned to prescription pills -- mainly powerful painkillers, initially prescribed by his doctor or dentist after he broke a bone or had dental work done.
By the time Nash graduated from high school, he was a full-blown addict, taking pills and shooting heroin. Even when he spent time in a
Today, 18 years later, Nash runs Habilitat, a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation program in
"That was the worst thing I've ever encountered in my life," Nash said of his time in OCCC. "That's the point I decided I really needed help."
After being released from jail, Nash spent four years in Habilitat's residential program.
"I haven't even thought about taking any kind of drugs since then," he said.
Physicians and other treatment providers in
But the drug deaths represent only a fraction of the problem.
Many more adults and teens have nonfatal overdoses, especially from narcotic painkillers such as hydrocodone, easily the most prescribed generic medication in
Some users start taking the drugs, commonly called opiates, for legitimate reasons, such as for chronic pain.
When the patients eventually crave greater amounts but can't get enough from doctors, they frequently pilfer pills from the medicine cabinets of family and friends or turn to street dealers.
When that supply runs dry or proves insufficient, heroin -- another form of opiate that is cheaper and more powerful -- sometimes becomes the next step on the addiction path, physicians and others say.
"We're looking at a huge epidemic coming,"
Reflecting that trend, the number of nonfatal drug overdose cases in
Of special concern is the problem among
At Hina Mauka, for instance, about 6 to 8 percent of the roughly 800 youths it treats each year are dealing with prescription drug abuse, according to Johnson.
"A few years ago, that was practically zero," he said.
Nash, as Habilitat director for the past 13 years, has seen a similar trend with the facility's roughly 100 adult residents.
When he asked at a recent residents' meeting how many came to Habilitat because of prescription pill abuse, about a third raised their hand. Ten years ago, Nash said, hardly any hands would have gone up.
Marinello developed an addiction despite being raised in what he called a good suburban family environment in