This editorial is part of the WCPO.com project, Heroin: How Do We Respond
The drug crisis is not getting better.
It’s getting worse. Much worse.
The death toll is soaring again this year. At midyear, Butler County is on track for a 50 percent increase in overdose deaths from last year, the county coroner said this week.
Hamilton County is also on track for a 50 percent increase, a check with the county coroner found. As of Tuesday, the coroner’s office had seen 308 suspected overdose deaths in Hamilton County.
These numbers are appalling, especially as they come on top of double-digit increases in previous years.
In the midst of the carnage, some so-called government leaders are openly advocating that we stop trying to save these lives.
Let’s call that idea what it is: cold, inhumane, heartless and cruel.
A Middletown city council member this week suggested that the city consider adopting a “three strikes and you’re out” policy on rescuing overdose victims.
In other words, Council Member Dan Picard’s reasoning goes, Middletown first responders will revive the unconscious drug user with Narcan three times, but on the fourth, they’re on their own, and perhaps they’ll die.
Has he thought that through? How would that work?
Would paramedics stop first to check their records to see how many times they’ve rescued that person? Would they even know who the person literally dying at their feet is? Would they check for ID before providing treatment?
And if they’ve saved that person three times already, would they just pack up their gear and speed off to the next emergency? Or would they simply refuse to respond?
Picard’s idea is so ludicrous it deserves to be quickly dismissed by the more rational people in Middletown City Hall.
Unfortunately, he’s not alone in his attitude.
As more deadly drugs enter this community and the number of overdoses continues surging, others are questioning why public resources are being exhausted on people who can’t seem to stop using lethal drugs.
The use of Narcan, in particular, is being questioned. Narcan is nothing short of a miracle drug that brings the near-dead back to life. It instantaneously reverses an overdose of heroin and other opioids.
It is an incredibly effective overdose antidote that saves lives. With a tool like that readily available, why would you not use it to save a life?
Yet, that’s exactly what some are suggesting.
It’s one thing to see it in the hyper-impulsive world of social media, where the “let-them-die” attitude is rampant. It’s quite another to hear it come from people in power.
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones says he agrees with Picard. “I won't allow my police officers to use Narcan,” he says. It’s unsafe for them, he said, because “these people don't want you to be there. They don't want you to take their drugs.”
Hmm. They don’t want to be arrested either, but you’re still doing that, right Sheriff?
There is no single answer to this epidemic. There’s no silver bullet. We editorialized long ago that addiction is a chronic, long-term disease that should be treated as such.
What’s needed is a comprehensive effort to expand and improve treatment, expand medication-assisted treatment, and provide better recovery options.
And local communities cannot do this on their own. They need help from state and federal governments and from private health care systems.
But we also need to understand that addicts are people. They are someone’s child, brother, sister, father or mother.
They don’t want to be addicted to heroin. People who suffer from a drug abuse disorder are sick. But there’s no drug that will cure them.
Narcan is not a cure. But it will keep them alive for another day. As long as they’re alive, there is hope for recovery.
That hope dies when they do.