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Reversing the Problem?

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Labeled for reuse via BuzzFeed News.

Labeled for reuse via BuzzFeed News.

Labeled for reuse via BuzzFeed News.

Sophia Kaufmann

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Naloxone is a drug that reverses opioid overdoses. There is controversy surrounding the drug saying that the drug doesn’t save lives, but rather drives people to seek more dangerous highs. According to an unpublished economics paper, inflaming addiction experts suggest that the nationwide push to use more of an overdose-reversing drug is actually increasing opioid deaths in some parts of the Midwest and increasing crime nationwide.

Every year in the United States more then 42,000 people die of opioid overdoses. These deaths are largely caused by pain killers, heroine, or fentanyl, which is a synthetic opioid. Emergency room visits for opioid overdose are increasing by the year, increasing 3-% between July of 2016 to September of 2017.

Public health officials have been responding to this problem. They are trying to broaden the access to Naloxone to emergency responders, family members and even drug users themselves. According to BuzzFeed News, “A recent presidential commission on the overdose crisis, which is now killing more people than the AIDS crisis at its height, recommended that all police officers carry Naloxone in all 50 states, for example.”

With the plead for easier access to Naloxone, new questions arise about the “moral hazard” of having this access. Moral hazard is when a new innovation leads to more dangerous behavior.

“Reducing the risks associated with risky behaviors will tend to increase those behaviors,”economists Jennifer Doleac of the University of Virginia told BuzzFeed News by email.

Doleac, along with Anita Mukherjee of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, conducted an experiment to test their theory. Doleac and Mukherjee compared crime and death rates across the states before and after the passages of laws meant to increase access to Naloxone.

This caused a great deal of disagreement among public health experts. Doleac and Mukherjees study had concluded that instead of saving lives, the access to Naloxone statistically increases thefts and emergency room visits “with no reduction in opioid- related mortality.”

“A 2017 economics study, for example, had found that naloxone access laws decreased opioid overdose deaths by 11% to 9%.”

Giving naloxone to someone who is overdosing can throw users into abrupt withdrawal pain (by blocking receptors in the brain that respond to opioids). Withdrawal is the very situation that addicts want to avoid. This makes Naloxone seem to cause more problems rather then help.

Naloxone has shown to cause an increase of opioid use rather than helping save the lives of those who overuse the drug. While Naloxone does saves lives, it is also causing an increase of problems.

 

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