The news has been full this past week with what I consider progress: the state of New York and the FDA have both taken steps to keep people alive in response to the huge and growing incidence of fatal drug overdoses.
The Attorney General of New York is dedicating $5 million, obtained from criminal and civil seizures, to provide law enforcement officers with an antidote to opioid overdoses, called naloxone - also known as Narcan. Also in New York, the state senate has unanimously passed a bill calling for expanded access to this life-saving antidote. On the federal level, the FDA approved an easy-to-use device for administering naloxone – an auto-injector called Evzio – which could be available for use this summer.
But some people worry that this is not a good thing. The governor of Maine is against this antidote; the head of pain medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital is worried that people who use drugs will use the antidote to party down, as is my landlord.
My son Casey died of a heroin overdose at the age of 24. I wish someone had been around with this antidote when he was dying. That’s what we’re talking about: life or death.
To my mind, anyone talking about possible negative societal effects of saving someone’s life is not thinking logically. It’s a matter of rejecting a certain good out of fear of a possible evil.
And to speak logically even more, let’s look at facts about how this antidote actually does effect drug use. Scientific studies have been done on the very question today’s opponents of Narcan raise. Guess what? Having the antidote available does not increase drug use.
One probable reason is that, despite its miraculous life-saving power, a person who’s brought back from an overdose is very unhappy because of how he/she feels in the moment. They suffer for a while the extreme pangs of withdrawal. They are not inclined to want to go through that again.
I would encourage people who worry about people using more drugs to do something about people using more drugs. For example, there are a lot of reforms to be made to keep people away from harmful drugs, especially painkillers. Plus, the whole area of treatment of people who abuse drugs needs change so that they don’t all end up dying or in prison.
So, don’t take away what saves lives. Work to help people who are suffering, whether they’re dying or not.
Jack Mack is a resident of Croton-on-Hudson, NY and the father of an overdose victim.