The nasal spray is a drug called naloxone, or Narcan. It blocks the brain receptors that heroin activates, instantly reversing an overdose.
Doctors and emergency medical technicians have used Narcan for years in hospitals and ambulances. But it doesn’t require much training because it’s impossible to overdose on Narcan. [...] New data compiled for NPR by researcher Alex Kral of the consulting firm RTI International show that more than 2,600 overdoses have been reversed in 16 programs operating across the nation. [...]
But Dr. Bertha Madras, deputy director of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy, opposes the use of Narcan in overdose-rescue programs.
“First of all, I don’t agree with giving an opioid antidote to non-medical professionals. That’s No. 1,” she says. “I just don’t think that’s good public health policy.”
Madras says drug users aren’t likely to be competent to deal with an overdose emergency. More importantly, she says, Narcan kits may actually encourage drug abusers to keep using heroin because they know overdosing isn’t as likely.
Madras says the rescue programs might take away the drug user’s motivation to get into detoxification and drug treatment.
As Quirkybird comments, “Yes, because extreme compulsion is easily overcome by the thought that something bad might happen. That’s why people no longer have sex or commit crimes!”
This is an example of how the “war on drugs” — as well as the moral absolutism of the conservative movement (“drug users baaaad!”)– has undermined mercy, compassion, and common sense. Trying to make it more likely that people will die of an overdose, in the hopes that the threat of death will make them seek treatment, isn’t just incredibly ignorant of how people actually work; it’s a disgustingly callous indifference to human life.
By the way, according to the article, studies have found that the Narcan program makes it more likely that addicts will seek treatment. But even if the Bush administration wasn’t wrong on the facts, they’d still be wrong on the morality.
(Anyone else reminded of the conservatives who opposed the HPV vaccine on the grounds that if women have a lower chance of getting cancer they might have more sex before marriage?)
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