Pubdate: Thu, 04 Jul 2002
Source: Portland Press Herald (ME)
Copyright: 2002 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


Junkies are axiomatically irresponsible. Most do not, however, wish to die.

That is why it may be a good idea for officials in Portland to distribute 
Narcan, which reverses the effects of narcotics overdoses, to addicts here.

The drug, dramatically used in the movie "Pulp Fiction" to save the life of 
an addict in the throes of an overdose, works. Paramedics in Portland 
already carry it, and have had excellent results.

City officials plan to meet July 17 to discuss making the drug available to 
drug users. The issue is pressing: Already this year, there have been more 
than 200 drug overdoses in Portland, 18 of which were fatal.

Providing addicts with Narcan is an interesting proposition, but one that 
should be entered carefully. If officials distribute the drug, they should 
do so carefully, after ensuring it will do more good than harm. They should 
look, too, at the Narcan experiences of other cities.

Addicts and those around them are understandably reluctant to call police 
or paramedics when they overdose. If drug users had Narcan, they would be 
in a better position to save lives.

Certainly, no one should get Narcan without some training in how to use it. 
That training could become an opportunity for addicts to receive additional 
counseling to help them overcome their dependence.

It is encouraging that Portland officials are considering techniques to 
reduce the damage that accompanies drug abuse. Harm reduction techniques 
such as needle exchanges and Narcan are proven to save lives - and do not 
encourage anyone to use illegal drugs.

Coupled with increased educational efforts and opportunities to provide 
addicts with treatment, harm reduction is a powerful tool.
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