To some, opioid addicts who die from overdoses are simply getting what they deserve.

“Play stupid games, win stupid prizes,” some like to say. 

This perspective always rises to the surface when the The Chronicle, or any media outlet for that matter, publishes news about the availability of naloxone, a drug used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. 

I don’t think those who think this way are bad people, but I couldn’t possibly disagree with them more. 

Life is always worth saving. 

Last week, Washington State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy signed a statewide standing order that effectively works as a prescription, giving any individual or organization in the state the ability to procure the drug. 

To me, it was fantastic news, a development that means lives will likely be saved. 

“They’ll just go back to using drugs,” a parade of commenters replied on social media. 

Or maybe they won’t. Maybe, after gasping back to life and journeying to the very brink of death, some will seek treatment and change their lives, perhaps even becoming productive members of society. 

With the startling number of people currently battling addiction, there will be plenty of both outcomes in both directions, and everything in between.

Another frequent argument of critics is that diabetics must pay hundreds of dollars or more for insulin, a drug that is not being provided free of charge like naloxone, which is now carried by most law enforcement and emergency responders in case they encounter someone in the midst of an overdose. 

I simply don’t understand this reaction. 

Why isn’t the response to ask why in the world insulin costs so much to begin with? Or the fact that three companies own 90 percent of the world supply? Or whether there is credence to allegations of price fixing? 

It’s incredibly odd to me that one suffering population would want to deprive another suffering population from a widely available drug simply because the drug they need is needlessly expensive. 

Be angry at the drug companies, not the agencies, individuals and organizations saving the lives of addicts amid the unprecedented opioid epidemic. 

Last year, 710 Washington residents died of an opioid overdose. If naloxone had saved just a few of them, imagine the reduction in grief and pain of the families and friends of these individuals. 

Now’s a good time to admit that, perhaps, I am biased. Almost exactly a year ago, I lost my best friend to an overdose. It was too late for naloxone when he was found alone in bed, his throat full of vomit and his brain damaged beyond repair. 

I cried holding his hand as he was in a coma in his final days, lamenting the fact that no one found him sooner, that a paramedic couldn’t administer the drug in time to keep him in my life. 

Likewise, my uncle also succumbed to his addiction, taken in an instant by a drug that knows no key demographic and offers no mercy to its most ardent users. 

I welcome the state’s action to curb the epidemic, including the expanded availability of a life-saving drug. 

For more information on how to acquire naloxone in Washington, go to https://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/DrugUserHealth/OverdoseandNaloxone

 

•••

Eric Schwartz is regional executive editor for Lafromboise Communications. He can be reached at eschwartz@chronline.com.

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