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Another Life Is More Significant Than a Junkie’s Life

“If a kid has a life-threatening allergic reaction, the parents have to pay a ridiculous price for an EpiPen. But a junkie who OD’s for the 15th time gets Narcan for free? Seriously?” (Ian & About IanIan is a copywriter at FHE Health, 2020) This was a popular meme which has circulated the internet for the past several years. There is a plethora of fallacies in these statements. Let’s discuss facts before we approach any theory or opinion. Narcan is a life-saving medication for those individuals who are suffering from an active opioid overdose. The use of an EpiPen is a life-saving medication which is administered to a person who is suffering from an active serious allergic reaction. The role of a first responder is to stabilize a patient to ensure a safe transport to a facility for additional care to be administered. Any care provided on an emergency scene is billed to the patient or the patient’s insurance, including any medication administered. Both serious allergies to a specific item and overdose from opioids are life-threatening emergencies.

The idea that any medication is free and delivered free of service is a fallacy. Often times, one who is providing Narcan to an individual who is in active opioid overdose an emergency response team is responding. When an emergency response team is responding, the patient involved will be billed, or the insurance of that individual will be billed. In some instances, a lay person is responding to the overdose and they often have their own Narcan to administer. Many communities provide Narcan to individuals who are trained in dispensing Narcan, however, the reason for that is to decrease overdose deaths in communities. When individuals are responding to a significant allergic reaction where an EpiPen is needing to be administered, typically the patient has an EpiPen which is being administered or an emergency response team is administering it. One key component is that there is a standing order from physicians in the community to administer Narcan, however, that may not always be the case for an EpiPen. Regardless, if there are standing orders or not, the emergency response team is required to stabilize the patient to be able to transport the patient to receive further medical treatment. The number one responsibility for the emergency response team is to prevent death and minimize damage.

This statement places more value on one life than another life. The fact substance use disorder (SUD) is a disease is often overlooked by many people. The fact SUD is a disease is just as true of any other physical disease being a real disease. American culture needs to understand SUD is mental health disorder and it has been since 1987 according to the American Medical Association (Bettinardi-Angres & Angres, 2019). The medical community has recognized this fact; however, society at large is still struggling to recognize this truth.

Picture this, your child is stung by a bee when he is 12 years old, an emergency response team is dispatched to your home, your son is administered an EpiPen and he is able to be transported to a facility and your child is then able to receive further treatment to ensure this does not happen again. Same child, five years later overdoses on heroin, an emergency response team is dispatched, Narcan is not administered, no further treatment is available. Dead people don’t recover.

By Darla Price, DSW-C, MSW

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