Wednesday, February 12, 2014
I've written a few times about the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdoses. There is an antidote, called naloxone (brand name Narcan) that can be injected or used as a nasal spray. EMTs normally carry it, but there's a movement to expand availability to other first responders, to friends and loved ones of opioid abusers, and to abusers themselves. You can read more about it here, and props to JAMA for making this article available to the rabble. (Most of JAMA is still subscription only, but I have to give a scrap of credit for this.)
Opioid overdose is now the most frequent cause of accidental death in the United States, ahead of motor vehicle crashes. We're talking more than 38,000 deaths a year. And it's particularly appalling that most of them are young people. Phillip Seymour Hoffman died alone, so presumably naloxone couldn't have helped him, but lots of opioid addicts use the drug with others, or live with family or friends who can intervene. A shot of naloxone costs just 8 bucks. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh wants to have all first responders -- police and firefighters, not just EMTs -- carry naloxone. And there's a bill in the Maine state legislature to do the same, which sounds like a good idea, because heroine overdose deaths in Maine quadrupled in one year.
Well, the depraved lunatic who Maine voters somehow elected to be their governor opposes the bill, because he thinks it would give addicts a feeling of "invulnerability." This is the same reason many people oppose needle exchange programs to prevent HIV -- and it's the law that federal funds can't be used for needle exchange, and many states continue to outlaw it.
What this means is that people -- conservatives, actually -- think that addiction is a moral failing so profound that addicts deserve to die. That's the entire logic of it. There is absolutely no evidence that making naloxone or clean needles available encourages drug abuse. On the contrary, people who engage with these services that can save their lives are more likely to enter treatment because there's an opportunity to talk with them and refer them. Also, too, you can't get treatment and you can't get clean if you're dead. But if you're a junkie, according to governor Paul LePage, that's what you deserve.
LePage is the scum of the earth. And an idiot.