The Opioid Harm Reduction Trap
"I would love to see a world in which Boy Scouts make handing out naloxone as their Eagle Scout project," addiction scholar Stefan Kertesz said in The Washington Post. Naloxone prevents opioid overdose deaths -- which is a good thing.
But soon federal regulators are expected to approve of over-the-counter sale of a nasal spray of the drug -- its brand name is Narcan -- and I'm thinking that the so-called harm reduction movement is about to inflict a world of pain on damaged people and degraded cities.
It's one thing to legalize the drug's availability at health care clinics and pharmacies. It's another to normalize self-destructive behavior that kills people by hyping more Narcan for more people in more places.
"If we're teaching our kids how to put condoms on bananas, we can teach them how to put Narcan up somebody's nose," a child psychiatrist offered in the same Washington Post story.
I disagree. Let social workers, medics, police and other professionals carry Narcan. But not Boy Scouts.
The mantra of "harm-reduction" movement is: "Every life matters." I fear that telling the world that Narcan is a handy antidote will spur dangerous behavior and loss of life.
"As a medical tool, there's clearly benefit" in making Narcan available, noted Robert Marbut, a senior fellow who specializes in homeless issues with the Discovery Institute where I also am a fellow. Nonetheless Marbut fears that in expanding availability, "misuse or overuse" will follow.
Marbut offered three areas that he believes have not been subjected to sufficient study ahead of expanding access to Narcan.
For one, repeated use of Narcan could lead to resistance to the drug.
For another, Marbut warned, while the single use of Narcan can save a life, perhaps even scare a user to seek treatment, addicts who frequently overdose could experience "minor brain damage for each use" -- damage that accumulates.
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