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Opinion from Cinci Enquirer: Narcan Must Remain Part of Addiction Battle Plan
Some of us have experienced the devastating effects of heroin and opioid addiction and overdoses firsthand, while others have been viewing this epidemic from the sidelines through news reports. Regardless of your perch, opinions are formed about drug users and the different ways government and law enforcement should deal with overdoses. And there’s no shortage of strong views on the controversial topic of administering the overdose-reversing treatment, Narcan.
There is no one “correct” or simple remedy for this struggle; that’s more Utopian thought than reality. Most of the ways to address heroin and opioid addiction fall into areas of grey. Our society needs to see this disease through a new lens.
These addicts aren’t all stereotypical “druggies.” In fact, the majority were once everyday people just like you and me but have gone down the wrong path. We should remind ourselves and others of that fact when we are forming our opinions, and not be so quick to judge. The addicts we see on TV, in the newspapers or online articles are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters and brothers. They come from all socioeconomic backgrounds, occupations and races. By no means does this justify breaking the law or the pain and suffering their family and friends endure as a result. But it is a reminder that they are ill.
Addiction can happen to anyone. A patient might get prescribed painkillers after a surgery and become addicted to those opioids over time. Addiction knows no boundaries. That’s why addicts should be treated with compassion and understanding.
For many communities in Greater Cincinnati, Narcan has become a go-to countermeasure in combating overdoses and lowering the death toll. The nasal spray is distributed by law enforcement personnel, which critics don’t like because it has police officers playing the role of doctor. Some taxpayers don’t like the idea of paying for an antidote for people who have chosen to take drugs. “It’s their fault, not mine,” they might say.
But here’s why we should care: Dispensing Narcan has saved countless lives so far, a positive in this drug crisis. The choice to supply this drug could be the difference between life and death. Who are we to choose who gets to live and who gets to die, especially if the ambulance will not be there in time, and Narcan works in about five minutes?
I don’t have any personal experience dealing with addiction, addicts or overdoses, but many in my hometown of Cincinnati aren’t so lucky. Drugs tear apart families and cause distress and death, Cincinnati faces some difficult choices about how best to cope with this epidemic in the best legal and most humane way possible. Narcan is an essential part of the solution and should be distributed so long as law enforcement can do so safely.
Stereotyping needs to end and attitudes toward addicts must change if we truly want to stop opioid addiction from devastating this city and region we call home.