Earlier this month, we posted a story of the Lawrence Fire Dept. searching for a reported overdose victim off Manchester Street. First responders searched for the overdose victim so they could administer the drug NARCAN, a substance that literally brings someone back to life after taking a deadly dose of heroin. Eventually they learned that another addict had administered NARCAN and the OD victim went on their way.
Several of our readers took the position that we should not be wasting the time, money, and resources of our police and fire to bring heroin addicts back to life.
“Why not just let them die? They are just going to go out and do it again,” one reader opined.
Still others chimed in saying that those who choose to take drugs are not worth keeping alive, as they are a constant drain on our community, commit crimes, and obviously don’t want to get clean anyway.
It’s a view that is all too common as our culture struggles to deal with an opioid epidemic that is transforming even the most affluent communities into havens for drug dealers, homelessness, and crime.
Why not let them die?
It’s true that most of the homeless addicts (and even the non-homeless addicts) do not want to get help. They are so physically dependent on the heroin or fentanyl, that food and water become secondary needs to getting their next fix.
We see it all too often as police officers sometimes have to administer NARCAN to the same individuals over and over on a daily basis, only to have them go right back out searching again for their next high.
If you talk to most of these individuals they will tell you outright they do not want to go to detox, they do not want to get clean, and they do not want to change the direction of their lives. They just want to get high.
It’s a hard fact to wrap your head around, but it only shows the power that heroin and fentanyl have over their minds and bodies.
What we also learn when we talk to these addicts over a period of time, however, is that they are not willing to get help or change their lifestyle … RIGHT NOW.
At some point, every addict hits rock bottom where they realize they cannot do it anymore. They will then either – kill themselves – or make the decision to reach out to someone for help.
Using NARCAN to bring a dead addict back to life gives these individuals one more day to make that decision. It gives them one more day of life to – maybe – hit rock bottom so they will finally be ready to get clean.
It’s frustrating for the families, the police, the fire departments, the EMTs, the hospital workers, and the volunteers in our communities who try every day to get these people the help they need. It’s even more frustrating for the uneducated public who bear the expense and the societal effects of so many heroin and fentanyl addicts plaguing their communities.
But, these are human beings. They are someone’s daughters, sons, husbands, mothers, fathers, and sadly grandfathers.
As a community we surely need to do a better job trying to prevent people from taking heroin and other addictive drugs in the first place. But, where we fail to do so, we must also do a better a job of understanding the incredible grip these drugs have over a person’s mind and body.
We have to have patience. And if that means administering NARCAN 100 times before a person is ready to get clean, then that is what we have to do. What’s more, we have to understand that most addicts fail at rehab half a dozen times before they finally get clean. Failure only means they need to try again. And they need our help to do so. We have to let the addicts know that while they are not ready to change, RIGHT NOW … when they are ready, help is available.
Sure it’s easy to say, ‘let them die’.
But, we shouldn’t be willing to throw these lives away simply because it is easier for the rest of us – simply because it will save money and resources.
Every life is precious. No matter how hard it is to get the addicts to see the value of their own lives. We have to keep trying!
Otherwise, what have we become as a society? ◊