I thought I’d share with you a post I made for my Facebook friends (who generally aren’t as well-educated on drugs and drug policy as you guys)…
Hey, kids – let’s talk about heroin!
What with celebrities and white suburban kids dying from overdoses in the news, more of you may be interested in this, so I’m going to take a moment to give you some facts and maybe even a tip or two that could save someone’s life.
One of the biggest problems we have is ignorance. I think most of my friends would agree that abstinance-only sex education is a really bad idea. After all, if/when someone fails to abstain, if they don’t know about safe sex, the consequences could be severe, and I don’t believe my friends are the type to enjoy taunting someone with “Ha, ha, you made a mistake. Now die.”
Well, the same is true with drug education — ignorance can kill you if you make a mistake — and yet most of us have come away with drug knowledge roughly equal to “Heroin is bad, mmm-kay?”
I may have sparked your interest with the offer of tips to save someone’s life, so I’m going to lead with those to keep you from getting distracted by the latest inspirational Photoshopped picture further down the feed.
– The miracle heroin-reversal drug: Naloxone.
Seriously. This stuff is amazing. If injected, it will act within one minute to block all the opioid receptors and completely turn off a heroin overdose. And it could last for up to 45 minutes, all without harmful side-effects. It makes someone overdosing instantly sober.
So why don’t you know about this? Because for years, the government rejected calls to increase distribution of Naloxone because they were afraid it would encourage people to do heroin (sound familiar? — similar to objections to condom distribution). So instead, people died. Fortunately, in recent years, they’ve started changing their tune.
If you know someone who uses heroin (or who once used heroin and has “quit”), then you should probably try to score some Naloxone. Even if you don’t know someone personally, if you live in a community where there is heroin use (ie, anywhere), then you should ask whether Naloxone is included in the kits of all early responders. It’s better not to wait until the hospital. Save lives.
– The life-saving Good Samaritan laws
One reason people die is that they don’t get help fast enough. And that may be because people are afraid to get help. You show up with a friend who overdosed and the cops are going to want to run a fine-tooth comb through your life (“Someone has to go to jail.”). In some cases, the person who supplied the drug can be charged with murder. Let’s say I’m overdosing and my girlfriend scored the heroin for me. I’m not going to want her to take me in, lose me, and then spend the rest of her life in prison because of me.
Well, more places are now passing Good Samaritan laws, which essentially state that we’re more interested in saving someone’s life than putting someone in jail (the details vary from law to law). It’s amazing how much opposition there is to these laws, so go to bat for them in your community and your state.
– Rehab – the surprise killer
Yes, rehab can lead to death from heroin overdose. Sound strange? Well, heroin users naturally build up a tolerance, which means they need to increase their dosage (sometimes dramatically) in order to reach the same high. Unfortunately, most of our rehab programs are built on the cold-turkey model, instead of the harm-reduction model. And they often don’t do a good job of educating addicts as to what will happen when they relapse (and most will). Their tolerance level will have gone down after they quit cold-turkey, so that the same dosage that was right for them before rehab now could be enough to kill them.
A lot of people die after going through rehab. If you know someone going into rehab, look into harm reduction models, and also make sure they understand the tolerance factors.
– The drug war makes heroin more dangerous
In a controlled and safe environment, heroin really isn’t that dangerous, and many heroin addicts can lead very long and productive lives. But the drug war puts the purity and safety of drugs in the hands of criminals. Dosages can be very uncertain (leading to overdoses), plus you don’t know what may have been used to cut the drugs. For example, a rogue chemist named Ricardo Valdez created 22 pounds of fentanyl which was used to cut heroin in the U.S.. It directly led to over 1,000 deaths around the country, including 300 in the Detroit area alone.
Our lock-em-up approach not only hasn’t worked, but it has made heroin more dangerous, and more profitable to criminals, increasing the incentive for them to hook young people.
In Switzerland, they took a different approach — give it away for free. Yes, they gave away free, controlled, safe doses of heroin to addicts in a clean clinic with doctors and social workers. They did a study in conjunction with this program and found a 94% reduction in criminal activity by those in the program; addicts were living longer; once stabilized they had an easier time kicking the drug; and… they made it unprofitable to be a criminal heroin dealer, so fewer young people were starting!
Changing our drug laws will save lives.
Oh, and finally… don’t do heroin, mmm-kay?
… the more you know.