An Answer to Some Critics of the Expanded Use of NARCAN

By: State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell – Sept, 2016

During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln explained his reluctance to impose capital punishment upon homesick soldiers that deserted or upon young men who bolted from their posts and “ran like hell” when being fired upon for the first time. Quite simply, he said, “It is simply too final a solution for wrongful but very understandable human behavior.” In other words, the expected capital punishment in such instances was a human waste that accomplished nothing good.

On Friday, August 18th, while exiting a local business, I found my car was blocked by emergency vehicles, primarily a Methuen ambulance and fire truck, and a Methuen police vehicle. These first responders were there to answer a call of a drug overdose and possible vandalism.

Firefighters pulled a young man from a car and laid him down on the pavement to provide him with every possible lifesaving treatment available. To those of us watching, he appeared to be dead – until – Methuen Firefighters administered NARCAN and essentially brought him away from the grave. Two other young men (about the ages of my son) were also incapacitated by drugs, and were then offered medical care. One elected to be taken to a local hospital following answering questions. The compassion and humanity presented by our first responders could only be described as magnificent.

There were some present who wanted to just, “let him die”, very frustrated with the recurrence of vandalism and the prospect that these young men may overdose again soon. The problem with that, as Abraham Lincoln noted, was that it is too final and wasteful a solution for the problem. As about half of our opiate addicts got their start on mal-prescribed or overly prescribed medicine, it is very wrong to automatically ascribe these young men’s problems to a deficiency of character. Also, mistakes made by teenagers and young adults who feel themselves immortal, that illicitly “try out” the most addictive substances known to man, should not cost them their lives, or prevent them from later having a life either.

The fact of the matter remains that while we in the Legislature have increased funding over 60% since the start of this crisis and Governor Baker is fully committed to doing all that he can, far too many parents in this region have lost children while desperately trying to get them into a treatment program.

As long as we in government and law enforcement do not accept this tragedy as the new normal, and make the financial and human sacrifices necessary to fight this crisis, we will prevail. As individuals, in order to summon and sustain our compassion and resolve, we must constantly envision addiction happening to ourselves and someone we love. NARCAN is not an answer, but, where there is still life in an addicted person, there is still hope.

Representative Campbell, 15th Essex, serves as the Vice Chair of the Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, and on the Committee on Ways and Means. She filed legislation adopted that facilitates cost savings for the bulk purchase of NARCAN.