LIHUE — The Department of Parks and Recreation has installed blue light bulbs in public bathrooms at some parks to discourage illicit drug use and loitering.
The blue light bulbs are meant to prevent people from using drugs in the bathrooms by making it more difficult for them to see their veins.
The idea has been around for a number of years but has recently gained popularity amid the opioid epidemic, as gas station and convenience store owners around the country struggle to prevent drug users from shooting up in their restrooms.
According to a county spokesperson, the blue lights were installed over the weekend in response to an increase in drug activity and loitering that has been observed at county parks.
Blue lighting will be tested in bathrooms at Kealia Kai, Kealia Beach, Kapaa Beach Park, Kapaa Lihi, Puhi Park, Spouting Horn and Hanapepe tennis court.
In an email Tuesday, the spokesperson said the lights cost $200 and are part of efforts by the county to look at “cost effective ways to protect and preserve our county assets at our public facilities like our restrooms.”
A statement from the county said that according to researchers, blue lights disrupt the activity of illicit drug users and discourages them from loitering. Local governments such as the city of Philadelphia, as well as retail industry researchers, have adopted this idea.
The use of blue lighting is one portion of a larger campaign to improve the overall quality of Kauai’s public comfort stations for use by the general public, according to the county’s statement.
But some researchers say blue lighting is not effective at reducing the amount of drug use in public restrooms and may lead to injuries among drug addicts desperate to find a vein in spite of the difficulty.
A 2013 study published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website found “blue lights are unlikely to deter injection drugs use in public washrooms, and may increase drug use-related harms.”