Overdose cures should be over the counter

We are lucky here in Washington to not bear the full brunt of the opioid epidemic like some places on the east coast. I’m sure there are heroin addicts and I’ve known people addicted to pills, but it’s far worse elsewhere. I have a fair amount of friends on the east coast and it seems like once a month another one of their friends overdoses and dies from heroin.

Something needs to be done to stop the drugs and to stop people dying. Unlike alcohol or benzodiazepine overdose, it’s remarkably easy to treat opiate overdose  using a drug called naloxone, also known as Narcan. Injecting someone with naloxone stops the overdose and is so powerful it’ll put someone who was high to the point of overdosing straight into withdrawal like they haven’t had any drugs for days. It’s highly effective, almost magical.

The problem is people do not always have easy access to it, as it generally needs to be prescribed by a physician. At least, that used to be the case. As of press time, 35 states and Washington DC sell naloxone over the counter without any prescription necessary. Anybody who needs it has easy access to a lifesaving drug, which is frankly pretty awesome.

Surprisingly, Washington is not one of those 35 states and naloxone is not available over the counter. Washington does make it a little easier to obtain a prescription. Stopoverdose.com states that Washington law “allows anyone at risk for having or witnessing a drug overdose to obtain a prescription for naloxone. Users, family members and concerned friends can all carry naloxone.” It seems like anybody can go to a doctor, state that they know an opioid addict and get a prescription, but I don’t know how easy it is in practice.

Then there’s Maine. On April 20, Governor Paul LePage vetoed a bill that would make naloxone available over the counter, saying “Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose.”

When I read this I was absolutely stunned, flabbergasted. I have essentially zero faith in politicians but this astounded me. The raw ridiculous logic here demands far too much from my imagination. I cannot believe something so patently stupid was uttered from the mouth of a U.S. governor.

A quick lesson for the governor: If someone is about to die and action is taken to reverse that process, then that life was saved. It’s so incredibly simple I question the governor’s ability to handle the simple task of walking and breathing simultaneously.

The governor must believe that seatbelts and car seats don’t save lives, they merely extend them until the next car crash. Better make seatbelts and car seats prescription-only I suppose. Cancer treatments don’t save lives, they merely extend them until the cancer wins. Really, any medicine ever doesn’t save lives but merely extends them until the next disease.

This is a criminal level of stupidity. What’s worse is I can’t really find any other reasoning behind the governor’s decision aside from him being a complete idiot. A lot of times that the government does stupid things, it’s because of crony capitalism where decisions aren’t made to benefit the people but instead benefit donors to the politician’s campaign. Keeping a drug prescription-only benefits no one.

Judging by the governor’s track record, it isn’t that surprising that he doesn’t know his rear from a hole in the ground. In January, he suggested that private citizens should fight the drug war by using their ability to carry concealed weapons without a license and shoot dealers in the street. “Everybody in Maine, we have constitutional carry,” LePage said. “Load up and get rid of the drug dealers.”

Treating addiction like sinful, aberrant behavior only pushes it into the shadows and prevents those who wish to recover from healing. Addiction is a disease that requires treatment, compassion and understanding to eradicate. Treatments do save lives. Medicine saves lives. All addicts have the capacity to heal and turn themselves around. Shooting dealers and letting addicts die in the street is cold, inhumane and downright evil.