Over the past two days, I’ve witnessed an influx in link sharing across my social media accounts in regards to a new White House initiative regarding heroin.
Some have come from members of Congress, others from residents in the region. According to these sources, the White House has recently identified Camden, Philadelphia, and New Castle as targets for a new heroin policy.
Narcan is the antidote used in order to counteract an opioid overdose, usually occurring after using heroin or abusing prescription pain medication. Camden County Police have been carrying Narcan on their uniform since May of 2015, and they have reportedly revived more than 100 people.
It is a great thing that lives are being saved, and that there is shift from punishment to treatment. However, although the life-saving antidote has become more securely funded, I must reject any notion of celebration at this time. Narcan and special law enforcement initiatives, funded or not, are not enough to get a true handle on our region’s heroin problem. We are still doing very little to tackle the source of these opioid addictions.
I say this simply by looking at the research that our government agencies have already completed.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that, “Nearly half of young people who inject heroin surveyed in three recent studies reported abusing prescription opioids before starting to use heroin. Some individuals reported switching to heroin because it is cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription opioids”.
To me, this information says that there needs to be strong policy reform to prevent young people from even needing to have Narcan administered to them. If nearly half of all intravenous heroin users seemingly resorted to heroin after falling into a prescription pill addiction, then we are waisting time by not searching for alternative, non-addictive medications. Our region should not even need to have a police officer’s utility belt equipped with Narcan, because we have seemingly identified the most common root in opioid abuse. Have we not?
As a society, we need to realize that prescription opioid medication comes with extremely high risks which may not even be worth the temporary pain relief anymore. We should be exploring alternative methods to treating temporary pain. These methods needs to exclude addiction as a side effect.
If our nation is able to find such a formula, if we can test other drugs in place of opioids, I am certain that the heroin crisis will diminish rapidly. I mean, I don’t of any heroin addict who started their drug addiction with heroin.