The Stigma Behind Naloxone and Heroin

When someone overdoses on heroin, their breathing starts to slow down. The brain quickly starts to bend under the stress caused by not receiving enough oxygen and the person who has overdosed is now in the state of hypoxia. When someone has this condition of reduced oxygen, everything is effected, such as the liver and skin of the individual. They get confused and begin to wheeze. None of those sound like a very desirable state to be in, which begs the question: why are people intentionally overdosing on heroin?

Naloxone is a drug that can, literally, bring a person who has overdosed on Heroin back from the brink of death. It reverses all of the of the overdose effects that almost completely. In fact, it’s so incredibly effective that news outlets such as KSL news and Boston 25 News have run stories on the rampant parties that have been thrown as a result of the easy access to Naloxone and the willingness of individuals to consume more than is “safe” for them. There have been Pennsylvanian police officers, on record, talking about these parties and the dangers that can come from employing the harrowing technique of viewing heroin and Naloxone as a two-in-one deal. It caused such a big panic, that the Ohio sheriff allegedly spoke to Fox and told them that his officers would no longer be carrying it around with them.

“…helped revive and save some lives but not bring down the usage of heroin.” – the Ohio sheriff on the drug, Naloxone

The idea of Naloxone parties, also known as Narcan parties, has divided people on where they stand on regards to how addicts should be treated. Not only that, but it has caused people to question the availability of the life-saving drug and whether it should really be that easy to buy. Suddenly, it’s a stigma. People have begun to claim that having the drug out there, easy to get and easy to administer, is encouraging addicts in their lifestyle. Making it easier for them to use, overdose and then repeat – to hell with their health. This is notable in an article by Record-Courier who claims that 24 hours after Nicki Dixon was saved, she began to use again. To those who had saved her, to her friends and her family, that might seem like a big slap in the face.

However, not everyone is on board with the notion that Narcan parties have been on the rise. Multiple Reddit users claim that Narcan parties have always been present, and all these articles are doing is increasing both stigma around the issue, as well as the dangers for people who are using. This void of support is likely due to the lack of or minimal presence of evidence that has been detailed in the reports that condemn and warn the public of this phenomenon. Besides those few that were mentioned in the previous paragraphs, other notable news outlets have caught onto the stories but instead of supporting the claims that have been made, they are actively working to dispute them. Many of them claim that revival via Naloxone is not something that anyone would look forward to due to the terrible shakes, tremors and overall terrible disposition that individuals are left in. One doctor goes as far to say:

“There are people who commit suicide they feel so awful when they’re revived,” – disputes Dr. Andrew Kolodny who is the co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University, in reference to the revival process

A reputable news outlet, DrugRehab.com, has posted an article stressing the importance of Naloxone and the dangers of encouraging the stigma that seems to indicate that it is the cause of an increase of heroin uses. There has been no evidence and besides, “No one dies because they have used Narcan, but 33,000 Americans died last year because their opioid overdose did not receive medical attention.” says the President and CEO of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, implying that he thinks that lives saved are what we should be focusing on. To elaborate on the lack of evidence, the county Sheriff who was involved in the story of Nicki Dixon (mentioned above in the paragraph about going back to Heroin 24 hours after she was saved), sheepishly tells The Outline that:

“We don’t have a way to confirm it.” – when questioned about where he received his information

Therefore, the most dangerous thing that various news outlets are sharing appears to be fear. With little to no statistical or educated evidence, claims are getting people riled up on the behalf of the phenomenon that isn’t in the rise. The stigma around the drug Naloxone is rising as we speak, and drawing more un-informed warriors to the battle of drug use and lives saved. Yes, people do have gatherings for the intake of heroin, but surely that is safer? Surrounded by people who know the effects of the drug, are afflicted by the same condition and, hopefully, are able to save others if the time comes to it. To all those people who are worried that the availability of the drug is creating more addicts, it is arguable that the fake narrative that taking Naloxone is all rainbows and daises instead of the hell that it actually is, might be lending a helping hand to those who are going down the wrong path. Naloxone might save your life, but the after affects simply aren’t worth it.

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Fleur Henley
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When I'm not writing, I'm probably watching Netflix or shopping.

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