Narcan: It Saves Lives. Does It Enable Addicts?

Summary and Analysis…

When a police officer uses Narcan to revive someone who has overdosed on an opioid, the question often becomes “what happens next?” Officers are sometimes frustrated when they’ve had to revive the same person more than once, at least in part because according to the article they see a “see a blurring of the line between saving a life and enabling an addiction.”

Frustration with the opioid addiction and its consequences have brought this conversation to the forefront in those who fight the battle daily. For one addict mentioned in this article, his experience with an overdose death averted thanks to Narcan was a wake-up call that put him on a path to recovery. But according to detective Lt. Patrick Glynn, of the Quincy, Massachusetts police department “there is frustration because a lot of people think that this is a fix-all for the heroin problem, which it’s not.”

This is yet another example of possible unintended consequences that communities need to thoroughly examine and understand when determining drug policy.

Excerpted from The Marshall Project

Jonathan Goyer was dying. Collapsed on the floor of his room in a group home for recovering addicts in Rhode Island two years ago, he was barely breathing. His lips and hands were blue, he had lost consciousness. The heroin he injected in the midst of a relapse was about to kill him.

Then, a modern miracle.

Goyer’s housemate, realizing what was happening, injected him with Narcan, an opiate antidote. It took a total of seven injections to revive him. It was the first time in almost 10 years of abusing drugs that Goyer had overdosed, and the near-death experience proved to be the breaking point in his addiction. After a hospital stay, he recovered and now works to educate public health officials about Narcan, which can be purchased over the counter in Rhode Island and may soon be available in other states without a prescription.

Narcan is credited with reversing more than 10,000 overdoses from 1996 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But while recovering addicts like Goyer praise the drug’s effectiveness, there are concerns that drug abusers are viewing it as a safety net. Police officers, who are often the first responders to an overdose, see a blurring of the line between saving a life and enabling an addiction.