Massachusetts health authorities will start supplying addicts next month with a kit containing two doses of a medication that can reverse a potentially lethal overdose within minutes, hoping to reverse a tide of heroin deaths, the Boston Globe reports. The initiative mirrors a similar project in Boston, where at least 66 overdoses have been reversed since the program began a year ago. State Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach said the results are so impressive that he wants to expand it to four areas of the state grappling with heroin epidemics. That drug and other opiates killed 544 people in Massachusetts in 2005, more than double the number felled by firearms.
Some substance abuse specialists criticize the distribution of Narcan to addicts, arguing that the practice encourages continued use and delays entry into treatment. Some also question whether it is wise medically to have one addict squirting Narcan up the nose of another user who is overdosing. “You give them the Narcan, where is their motivation to change? The addict is going to say, ‘I just overdosed and I got another lease on life – great,’ ” said Michael Gimbel, a recovering heroin addict who was director of substance abuse in Maryland’s Baltimore County for 23 years. “Giving Narcan might give them that false sense that ‘I can live forever,’ which is not what we want.” Boston’s campaign has drawn internal opposition from paramedics, who worry that addicts are not equipped to deliver medical treatment. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy also condemns Narcan distribution. “This is a medical emergency – this is not a friendly, communal chit-chat situation,” said an official.