A recent article in USA Today reported that, over the past few years, an antidote to heroin overdose – a drug called naloxone
– has gone from being used exclusively by EMTs and hospital staff to being used by addicts and their families directly. The article states that, “in the past few years, public health officials across the nation have been distributing it free to addicts and their loved ones, as well as to some police and firefighters.” According to a survey conducted by the Harm Reduction Coalition, the experimental distribution of the drug to addicts may have saved as many as 10,000 lives since the program was introduced in Chicago in 1996. The drug can be used to treat overdoses to heroin as well as certain prescription painkillers, such as OxyContin and Vicodin.
The program, however, is not without its opponents. Those against the distribution of the drug to addicts feel that it is “an accommodation to drug use that could make addicts less likely to seek treatment.” Supporters, on the other hand, say that immediate access to the drug may save valuable time that would otherwise be spent waiting for paramedics to arrive. Distribution programs currently exist in 188 locations nationwide, including New York City, San Francisco and Baltimore.
What do you think? Do you believe such harm reduction strategies are effective, or are they merely providing a false sense of security to substance abusers? Let us know in the comments.