As a general statement, buying a put is a substitute for shorting shares. However, there are a number of disadvantages, even more so with a hard to borrow stock.
An option has a 'participation rate' (my terminology) which is represented by its delta (negative for puts and positive for calls). A very deep in-the-money put has a delta of -1.00 so it will participate about 1:1 for every dollar that the stock drops.
A put with a strike price near the stock's current price has a delta of approximately -.50 so initially, it will increase only 1/2 the amount that the stock drops. The more the stock drops, the higher the put's delta will become (higher meaning heading toward -1.00 not becoming more positive).
As for hard to borrow stocks, other people will likely have the same idea as you. If that occurs, it will make all of the options more expensive (increased implied volatility or IV). Any news that settles the traders would likely result in a decrease in implied volatility, causing your premium to disappear right in front of your eyes. And conversely, increased IV would help you. You can see what average IV has been over the past year at IVolatility. Free sign up.
The options of hard to borrow stocks tend to be illiquid (low open interest and low daily volume). If so, that means a large bid/ask spread. So if you have a 50 cent B/A spread and a 50 delta put, you'll need the stock to move almost $1 just to break even.
So while this is a viable idea, it's not without considerations, especially for short term intraday trades.