People are dying, why does it matter if it is an addiction or a choice?

Written by Brandon Jarvis

 Drug overdoses killed roughly 60,000 Americans last year—more than car accidents or gun violence. 

 

Have you been on Facebook recently to see some acquaintances having the great “Addiction v. Choice” debate?   This argument is spreading almost as fast as the ACTUAL opioid epidemic.  I am not here to argue for either side, but instead I want to argue for BOTH sides.  I don’t want to ignore the fact that people I know, and I am sure people that you know, are suffering and dying. I want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and say that regardless of political affiliation, socio-economic status, or race, we don’t like to see people die.  I’m going to assume that everyone wants to actually try and help people, instead of judging them.  We might believe in different theories and methods to achieve helping others, but none-the-less we want to help.

I know when you hear the word “Heroin”, it’s foreign and out of the realm of your reality.  You cannot comprehend someone actually acquiring,  then using Heroin.

Imagine this, you are in a car accident where someone was texting and drove into the back of your car.  You were ok, but you have some back pain and a moderate case of whiplash.  A doctor prescribes you Hydro’s to help with the pain at night so you can sleep.  You start to take the pills and they help a lot, at first.  Next week the pain is still hanging around and the Hydro’s aren’t helping as much; so then you have to take more.  You go back to the doctor and they say that your back and neck are healing slowly and that the pain should go away soon.  In the meantime, the doctor prescribes you 2 more refills…. and you fill them.  After you take all of those meds, honestly to help your back, especially at night so that you can sleep…. you run out.  You go back to the doctor, but they refuse to give you more pills out of a fear of an addiction.  You writhe in pain for days until someone you know from work offers you something that will help with your pain.  It’s even better because since you use a needle to inject it, it helps much faster.

Do you truly believe, that this couldn’t happen to you, or someone you know?

From 2007-2010, Virginia averaged 700 overdose deaths per year.  In 2011 there were 800 deaths, and there were over 1000 in 2015.  28,000 people died in 2014 from a drug overdose in the United States.

Fatal drug overdoses increased 38 percent in Virginia between 2015 and 2016, an alarming jump that state health officials attribute to abuse of synthetic opioids, heroin and prescription fentanyl.

Fentanyl which is a pain medication that is much more powerful than morphine, experienced an alarming increase of 175% in deaths.

The situation will probably get worse before it gets better, said State Health Commissioner Marissa Levine, who in November classified opioid addiction as an epidemic and declared a public health emergency .

“I don’t know when we’ll see a peak in deaths,” Levine said . “It’s not just heroin causing people to die. It’s fentanyl and synthetic fentanyl with different potencies. We’re now seeing carfentanil [a drug 100 times more potent than fentanyl, used to tranquilize elephants]. Someone who’s getting heroin laced with carfentanil could die easily.”

The most deadly combination in 2016 was a mixture of fentanyl and heroin. Kathrin “Rosie” Hobron, Virginia’s forensic epidemiologist, said dealers spiked heroin with cheaper fentanyl and fentanyl analogues, or in some cases sold heroin users fentanyl but described it as heroin. The combination of fentanyl mixed with heroin has been the biggest contributor to the spike in the number of fatal opioid over­doses in Virginia, state health officials said.

 

Librarians, yes I said LIBRARIANS… are getting trained in how to deal with victims when they overdose.  They are literally saving lives in some of the biggest cities in America due partly to the fact that homeless people hangout in libraries.

Here is a snippet from this CNN story about a librarian in Philadelphia that is using a type of  nasal spray to save people during an overdose.

“A crowd hovered over the man lying on the grass as his skin turned purple. Chera Kowalski crouched next to his limp body, a small syringe in her gloved hand.

Squeeze.
The antidote filled the man’s nostril.
The purple faded. Then it came back. Kowalski’s heart raced.
“We only gave him one, and he needs another!” she called to a security guard in McPherson Square Park, a tranquil patch of green in one of this city’s roughest neighborhoods.
“He’s dying,” said a bystander, piling on as tension mounted around lunchtime one recent weekday.
“Where is the ambulance?” a woman begged.
Squeeze.
Kowalski dropped the second syringe and put her palm on the man’s sternum.
Knead. Knead. Knead.
Nothing.
She switched to knuckles.
Knead. Knead. Knead.
Then a sound, like a breath. The heroin and methamphetamine overdose that had gripped the man’s body started to succumb to Kowalski’s double hit of Narcan.
With help, the man, named Jay, sat up. Paramedics arrived with oxygen and more meds.
Death, held at bay, again.
Kowalski headed back across the park, toward the century-old, cream-colored building where she works.
“She’s not a paramedic,” the guard, Sterling Davis, said later. “She’s just a teen-adult librarian — and saved six people since April. That’s a lot for a librarian.”

Kowalski works in Philadelphia at McPherson Square Library, It sits in the Kensington community, where drugs and poverty lace daily life.
 
 
Philadelphia last year saw about 900 fatal overdoses, up nearly 30% from 2015, municipal tallies show. Nearly half the deaths involved fentanyl, the powerful opioid that killed Prince.

Kowalski is not alone in this battle against Opioids amongst librarians.  In at least three major cities — Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco — library employees now know, or are set to learn, how to use the drug naloxone, usually known by its brand name Narcan, to help reverse overdoses.  Libraries often serve as daytime havens for homeless people and hubs of services in impoverished communities.
One of the positive aspects of healthcare and drug-related issues is Medicaid.

Over 1 million Americans are finding treatment for their addictions with help from Medicaid. In Pennsylvania alone, some 124,000 people depend on Medicaid to help them in the hard battle to kick their compulsion.  One could say that Medicaid is the best effort the government is making to fight this epidemic.

This is my reminder to tell you that we are not debating Addiction v. Choice, we are trying to save lives either way. 

The Republican-controlled House  passed a bill chopping $880 billion from Medicaid over 10 years, and the Senate’s isn’t much better.  It is bad enough that the Republicans AND Democrats are not realizing the gravity of this situation that is bearing down on their constituents.

People with opioid use disorders die at greater rates than people in the general population, by as much as 20 times higher, so finding ways to lower the risk of death is very important,” said lead researcher Dr. Katherine Watkins. She is a senior physician policy researcher at the Rand Corporation, a U.S. nonprofit research organization.

We often get stuck in the argument of why something may have happened and then instantly start blaming the opposite political party.  This helps how?  You can’t fight negativity with negativity.  You can’t save a life by judging someone.  You don’t have to save a life, but why wouldn’t you want to?

Here are some links.

Have respect for family members and friends of the victims before you publicly debate the situation surrounding an overdose.  It is inspiring to see people across the country learn how to save a person that is overdosing, and then going back inside to their job as a librarian.

 

 

Brandon Jarvis        Brandonjarvis@richmond2day.com

Show This To Everyone

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *