Via new acquaintance Tom Levinson of the Inverse Square blog comes an all-too-familiar story of our “compassionate conservative” administration putting their own morality above proven public health programs:
Fact 1: public health officials around the country…are distributing rescue kits [containing Narcan, see below –TS] that save heroin users from overdoses. The kits cost $9.50, and they are credited with reversing 2,600 overdoses in 16 such local programs around the country. For context: NPR reports that “overdoses of heroin and opiates, such as Oxycontin, kill more drug users than AIDS, hepatitis or homicide.”
Great, right? Cheap kits, Narcan is easy to use (it can be given as a nasal spray), lives saved. What’s not to love? Well… (after the jump)
Dr. Bertha Madras, deputy director of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy, opposes the use of Narcan in overdose-rescue programs.
“First of all, I don’t agree with giving an opioid antidote to non-medical professionals. That’s No. 1,” she says. “I just don’t think that’s good public health policy.”
Madras says drug users aren’t likely to be competent to deal with an overdose emergency. More importantly, she says, Narcan kits may actually encourage drug abusers to keep using heroin because they know overdosing isn’t as likely.
Madras says the rescue programs might take away the drug user’s motivation to get into detoxification and drug treatment.
“Sometimes having an overdose, being in an emergency room, having that contact with a health care professional is enough to make a person snap into the reality of the situation and snap into having someone give them services,” Madras says.
Got that? Can’t trust someone without a MD to give a nasal spray that might save a life–besides, going to the ER might scare the user clear of drugs! That is–if they live to get to the ER, of course.
I don’t doubt that this “scared straight” effect works for some drug addicts, but it’s absurd to base a public health policy on something so unlikely. This is much like the uproar over needle exchange programs–they’d been shown to work, shown to reduce the spread of disease and to save lives, but many conservatives opposed them because they “encouraged” or somehow gave validation to injection drug use as a lifestyle; or like arguing to withhold the HPV vaccine for fear of increasing promiscuity.
Call in yet another example of argument from fire extinguisher.