Why that won’t solve the problem:
Yes, they will die. But then they will keep dying and we will need a bigger morgue. Every addict is someone’s child and quite possibly someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, and best friend.
The public, politicians and even first responders are divided on the debate of whether or not people who are experiencing an overdose should receive a lifesaving effort with Narcan and whatever resources are necessary.
For those of you who believe that we should just let them die and the problem will resolve itself, let me explain why that won’t work.
No one chose to become an opiate addict, or any type of addict for that matter. They all made the same decision you did at some point in your life to experiment with alcohol or marijuana as a teenager. Maybe they broke a bone on the job as an adult and were prescribed opiate pain medication. Whatever the reason, 99% of society has a consumed mood-altering chemical substance at some point. Around 13% of these individuals have the genetics or the perfect storm of environmental factors that has altered the physiology of their brain to make it hyper-sensitive to dopamine. All drugs act on dopamine in some way. However, not all brains are hyper-sensitive to it. For those that are, they will become addicted. Plain and simple. But, the addiction doesn’t happen all at once. The individual isn’t going to take a pill and say “Whoa, I’m a drug addict! I didn’t know that! I better not take any more or I’ll end up like those addict dying on the street from heroin overdoses!”
Instead, the addiction progress begins and will progress ever so stealthy, like a lion stalking a wildebeest. By the time the addiction takes the person down, there’s no hindsight that can stop the process. The only things that can help are treatment and sober support.
The point I’m trying to make is that there will always be addiction. And the next generation isn’t going to decide to not become addicts because they see the death toll. It just doesn’t work that way. It’s not so simple. If it was, people would stop being addicts now! Every opioid addict knows that the next overdose could be fatal. And even though they don’t want to die, they have lost the power of choice. Just like a wildebeest in the grips of a lion. It will take intervention of some sort to stop the process.
Recovery is the responsibility of the addict. But it takes intervention, education, treatment and sober support to assist the individual in getting their head back to a place where they can understand not only that it is their responsibility, but that they have the strength to do it. Hopelessness is a plague that has consumed many people suffering from addiction. They feel that their friends, family and society has given up on them. So what hope is there? We need to uphold the message of hope and lose the stigma. Because the next generation is still going to provide society with addiction. I guarantee it. Let’s progress and handle it more productively this time.
Let’s take Portugal for example. In the 20th century they saw increasing rate of heroin addiction and throughout the 1980’s attempted to combat this problem with harsh punitive sentences and societal backlash. The rates continued to increase and by 1999 about 1% of the population were addicted to heroin; the highest rate in the European Union.
In 2001, Portugal decriminalized drug use. Instead, if someone is caught with drugs and is deemed that they are not a dealer, they will be given an option for treatment. Many feared that this decriminalization would open the floodgates to drug tourism, increasing crime and disease. This was not the case. HIV/AIDS cases have plummeted in Portugal since 2001 and the addiction rate has been steadily decreasing. Overdose deaths have significantly decreased as well.
A society that treats addiction like a mental health problem that needs treatment will find a solution. Any individual who believes that just letting them die will fix the issue, is actually a part of the problem.
Aleem, Z. (Feb. 11th, 2015). 14 Years After Portugal Decriminalized All Drugs Here’s What Happened. Mic Daily. Retrieved from: Feb. 11, 2015https://mic.com/articles/110344/14-years-after-portugal-decriminalized-all-drugs-here-s-what-s-happening#.vXf9ueLkv