‘Antidote’ drug is important part of plan to fight epidemic

Published 7:31 pm Sunday, September 10, 2017

It comes as no surprise to most people that there is a serious drug epidemic nationwide. 

Drugs — particularly opioid abuse and misuse — are killing our neighbors, our friends and our loved ones at alarming rates.

More than 33,000 people were killed in 2015 by opioid overdose.

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While these deaths are the most serious side effect of this epidemic, to name all the ways drugs are negativily affected our community would be impossible. There are also concerns about the spread of diseases by intraveneous drug users, and the epidemic is taking a toll our children, our justice system, our law enforcement and our emergency services.

For many, it would be easy to suggest we “throw our hands up,” and essentially surrender to how these drugs are destroying lives and our community. But, to give up would be to say that those people who suffer from the grips of addiction are not worth the effort.

And we certainly don’t agree with that conclusion.

While there is no easy answer to this epidemic, there are many people who see the value of connecting individuals with resources like medical care, rehabilitation and mental health treatment.

There is much controversary surrounding Narcan — also known as naloxone. This drug essentially acts as an “overdose antidote.” The opioid receptors in the brain have a greater affinity for naloxone than for other opioids, like heroin or prescription pain medications. The naloxone kicks the opioid drugs off the receptors and provides some time — 30 to 90 minutes usually — to transport the person to receive necessary and life-saving care.

Many people believe that making Narcan more available throughout the community — by equipping law enforcement, emergency medical services, hospitals, schools and even people on the street with Narcan kits — is empowering drug users to continue using and overdosing. Or that the drug’s availablity is making our drug problem worse.

We disagree.

Drug users are going to continue using, and run the risk of overdosing, whether this drug is available or not.

By making Narcan available, we can save lives. In fact, many lives have already been saved thanks to the drug’s availability.

Between 1996 and 2010, more than 10,000 drug overdoses have been reversed by using Narcan.

Those lives we save are of value to someone. People who use drugs are more than the title of “addict” they are given. They are someone’s loved one, someone’s friend, someone’s parent, someone’s child.

If we allow people to die when there is a treatment available, we are missing out on the opportunity to connect these individuals with the care they need to overcome their issues.

The answer to the drug problem is complicated —  if it were easy, we wouldn’t have a problem. But we believe making Narcan available throughout the community is an important part of the plan to prevent overdoses and promote clean, sober living.