Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Narcan, or: Why You Deserve to OD and Die

I wanted to relay this entry to you guys. Seemed like the kind of thing that young people these days ought to keep track of, even if you or your friends or whatever aren't in contact with "those druggies."

Pharmacy colleague (and I hope he doesn't mind my calling him that) and fellow blogger Abel Pharmboy* provides a most excellent summary of the current buzz in the blogosphere about statements made by Dr. Bertha Madras. Dr. Madras, in the event that you were unaware, is a head member of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy. And Dr. Madras would rather see opioid abusers die than distribute rescue kits that "encourage" opioid use.


What denying needles (and Narcan) to addicts does do is send a powerful message. It says "society doesn't care about you, and we're secretly hoping you die so that we don't have to deal with the problem anymore."

As a personal note, you'll probably meet fewer people in the universe with less sympathy for drug users than I have. I'm pretty spectacularly callous. But that doesn't mean I'm blind to what actually works and what doesn't. It means I won't claim I'm saving lives or solving problems if I don't care to do either.

These people.... they're potentially more callous than I am, and they're hiding it under a veneer of prim determination to reform these junkies by letting as many of them die as possible to teach the others a lesson.

Think about that for a second. Protective measures "encourage drug use" by reducing the risk. It means that the risk is what people like Madras think deters drug users (despite evidence to the contrary). But let's depart from the obvious factual problems here. The fact that this makes no damned sense in light of what drug users actually do is easy enough to see.

My problem is with the people who advocate this plan in the absence of evidence. With no evidence in favor of this, people like Madras are completely comfortable with the implications of these statements. Unless drug users continue to overdose, contract hepatitis and AIDS, and eventually die terribly... their plan doesn't work. Their plan depends on people dying tortuous deaths as an example to others. That's sick. Sicker than any junkie I've known, and I've known some gems.

This turned into a longer rant than I'd expected, but this upsets me. If you're comfortable with damning whole groups of people because you don't think they deserve to live, come out and say it. Don't pretend there's any compassion in a stance like that, and don't pretend that you're saying it because you think it'll somehow help them.

*Text from Abel Pharmboy's entry, in case you didn't check out the page: Since being distributed in 16 communities the overdose-rescue kits [at $9.95 each] have saved 2600 lives, nearly the number of people who perished in the combined terrorist attacks of 11 Sept 2001.

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