As the opioid epidemic continues to worsen, hospitals are overwhelmed with overdoses, small-town morgues are running out space for the bodies, and local officials from Kentucky to Maine are struggling to pay for attempting to revive, rehabilitate or bury the victims. the Washington Post reports. As their budgets strain, communities have begun questioning how much money and effort they should be spending to deal with overdoses, especially in cases involving people who have taken near-fatal overdoses multiple times. State and local officials say it might be time for “tough love”: pushing soaring medical costs onto drug abusers or even limiting how many times first responders can save an individual’s life. “It’s not that I don’t want to treat overdose victims, it’s that the city cannot afford to treat overdose victims,” said Middletown, Oh., Council Member Daniel Picard, noting that his industrial town might have to raise taxes in response to the crisis.
Often, the only thing separating whether an overdose victim goes to the hospital instead of the morgue is a dose of naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, a medication that can reverse the effects of opioid overdoses. Two doses of an injectable form of naloxone, Evzio, cost $4,500, up from $690 in 2014. The price of other forms of the drug, including the nasally administered Narcan, typically range from $70 to $150 per dose. Health officials say powerful additives to the illicit market — such as fentanyl and carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer — are to blame. Even if saved, an opioid user often is back on drugs within days, if not hours. In Ohio, first responders say it’s not uncommon for overdose victims to have previously been revived with naloxone at least a half-dozen times. Some officials and residents are starting to ask how a community can bear to try to help those who do not appear to want to help themselves.