There’s a kind of meme that has proliferated across the internet, one you’ve probably seen in some form. A typical example says: “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?”
For many people battling drug addiction, access to Narcan can be essential. Undoubtedly, the use of naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan, saves lives. One study found that 93.5 percent of people who were given this drug when they visited an emergency medical center survived their overdose. Considering this one, single fact, it seems the drug is well worth making widely available to those in need.
Yet, for many people, including most non-drug users, it can seem unfair to do just that. To be clear, no one wants other people to die. Yet, to a person who doesn’t use drugs, living their life by making good decisions, it can seem downright unfair that Narcan is so easily obtainable while their management medication is not affordable.
By comparison, an EpiPen, a life-saving drug injection that can reverse the impact of an allergic reaction immediately, isn’t so accessible. Rather, it can cost people hundreds of dollars to have such a device on hand to save their life if they are exposed to a substance they’re allergic to.
It can seem very frustrating, then, that the cost of one life-saving drug for those who need it through no fault of their own could be so out of reach. Some people also blame the increasing cost of drugs like these on the availability of Narcan. But there’s no connection between why people are paying so much for insulin and the availability of Narcan.
What Narcan Really Is: A Life-Saving Drug Like Many Others
Consider, for a moment, when a person is having a stroke and calls an emergency response team. In the ambulance on the way to the emergency room, the paramedics administer anticoagulants in high doses, which help to break up a clot that could be contributing to the stroke. They work fast and potentially help to reduce the impact of brain damage.
If a person is having a heart attack, paramedics administer nitroglycerin. It works immediately to reverse the impact of the heart attack, helping to preserve heart muscle. A person suffering a shock from too little glucose in their bloodstream may benefit from glucagon if it’s administered immediately.
In each of these situations, the paramedic takes immediate action to prevent death using some very costly drugs long before a person reaches a hospital. Having access to Narcan does the very same thing: it prevents death. The key here is that anticoagulants, glucagon and nitroglycerin don’t offend anyone. No one would tell an EMS team not to administer these drugs to those in need. We do not blame their lifestyle or genetics and say ‘why is your healthcare free and I have to pay for mine?’ This is one of the many ways the recovery community takes unequally disparaged.
What Does the Disease of Addiction Do to a Person?
Did you know that many people who receive a dose of Narcan fight back? They don’t want it because Narcan immediately stops the euphoric high the drug provides. In truth, a person who seeks out this type of high at such a high risk is addicted.
Addiction means a lack of control. Those who seek out a substance and take risks with it are doing so because they have a chemical dependency. They can’t just say no and stop using it. As a disease, addiction limits a person’s ability to make the right choice.
There are other examples of this in health care. A person who has diabetes, for example, knows that their body doesn’t process carbohydrates correctly. They know they will risk problems if they don’t maintain their blood glucose levels properly. Yet some still make the choice to consume the wrong foods, creating high-risk health scares for themselves.
In the same way, people with an addiction lack the ability to simply say no. The addiction has changed the chemical makeup of their brain so that their body now demands that chemical. Without it, they feel intense pain and cravings.
Going Beyond the Meme: Addicts Need Help
Many people who shared this meme on social media mentioned about irresponsibility. A person with a drug addiction seems to be irresponsible, not sick. Still, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to provide help that lifts them up? Is the meme really doing anything to improve their situation?
It’s true that people in these communities need help. Providing that support through education, programs to support those facing abuse and treatment program access can change lives. They can also help reduce the need to use Narcan. What won’t reduce the need for Narcan is shaming ‘junkies’ into better behavior. What this public perception does is discourage funding for rehabilitation as it shifts the blame onto the user, not onto the focus for better care.
What About Drug Costs??
The truth about medication costs is the same for any drug. Insulin’s cost is what it is for the same reason that Narcan’s costs are what they are: Companies manufacturing these drugs control the market and control their profit points. They can charge what the market is willing to pay for the drugs.
A better way of looking at these costs, then, is to consider what could be done to make all drugs, including Narcan and insulin, more readily available or, even better, less needed.
One route is changing the way health care operates. Without considering politics, it’s clear changes are necessary to ensure people don’t wait for access to drugs that could save their lives. Reducing other costs related to health care might also be helpful.
Reducing the Demand for Narcan Offers the Better Outcome
The best way to combat the need of Narcan doses is not to limit its access and allow those with an addiction to die. Rather, it is to create a robust addiction and mental health care program. This makes it possible to help support and even prevent the need for the drug in the first place. Having a strong program like this in place could help support those communities in desperate need of support.
What You Can Do
Instead of sharing memes, be an advocate for change. Ask why a person is addicted. Learn more about local programs that need help in supporting recovery efforts. If you see a person struggling with addiction, help them find the assistance they need. They may not have another person to advocate for them and help them overcome their addiction.
FHE Health Offers That Support
Undoubtedly, if a person needs emergency medical care due to a potential overdose, call 911. If you or a loved one have an addiction, seek out help from FHE Health. Our team of compassionate, trusted professionals is ready to answer all of your calls, and we’re available 24/7 at (844) 299-0618.