US Surgeon General narcan warning for Americans to start carrying the opioid antidote is met with resistance as authority figures and researchers believe it will only inspire more risk taking behavior.
Thursday’s urging was Dr Jerome Adams office’s first national public health advisory in 13 years.
‘You don’t have to be a policeman or a firefighter or a paramedic to save a life,’ Adams told the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta.
‘Each day we lose 115 Americans to an opioid overdose — that’s one person every 12.5 minutes,’ Dr. Adams reiterated. ‘It is time to make sure more people have access to this lifesaving medication, because 77 percent of opioid overdose deaths occur outside of a medical setting and more than half occur at home.’
The drug, which is injected into or sprayed into the nostrils of a person who is overdosing (whether on heroin or prescription pain medications) is credited with pulling at least 26,500 people back from the brink in the US between 1996 and 2014, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Surgeon General narcan urging steeped in controversy:
While naloxone has served to reduce probable deaths otherwise, the over the counter drug is not without controversy, with critics arguing that it discourages addicts from seeking treatment because it lowers the risk of death. Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who has argued it ‘perpetuates’ the cycle of addiction, has been pushing to place age restrictions on the drug.
Aware of reticence in the use of narcan and the general attitude towards users, Adams during his Thursday speech specifically addressed naysayers.
Told Adams, ‘There are people out there who think naloxone doesn’t make a difference: You’re just going to go on and misuse substances again,’
‘That would be like me saying I’m not going to do CPR on someone having a heart attack because if we save them, they’re just going to go out there and eat fast food and be back here all over again.’
Opioid addiction and overdose deaths a bitter reality to be confronted:
That said, some researchers contend that the increased availability of narcan only serves paradoxically to inspire even more dangerous drug consumption according to Jennifer Doleac, an assistant professor of public policy and economics at the University of Virginia.
‘Our research shows that expanding access to naloxone is not enough to reduce opioid-related mortality and may even increase opioid abuse,’ Doleac said according to cnn. ‘We found that effects were more beneficial in places where more drug treatment is available. So, if we are going to increase naloxone access, then it is also important to increase funding for drug treatment.’
Thursday’s urging is keeping with the awkward reality that opioid addiction is here to stay, as Americans continue to turn to the drug in droves, with statistics showing more Americans under the age of 50 die each year from opioids than from any other cause, including heart attacks and choking.
Around 95 percent of insured Americans are covered to buy naloxone, while the uninsured can often get it through local public health programs, with the US Surgeon general pushing for more public funds to increase access.