Abuse of naloxone out of hand residency rule

Narcan, the brand-name version of naloxone, has been a godsend for many opioid users who’ve experienced overdoses and, thus, flirted with death.

Narcan has the ability, if administered quickly, to reverse the effects of an opioid.

But while a godsend, a downside has evolved as its availability has increased. Now, Narcan is, in effect, being abused as well.

Some of those with Narcan close at hand — or who know that their community’s emergency services carry it — have experimented with higher doses of opioids because Narcan has given them a sense of invincibility.

There have been instances when emergency services here and elsewhere have had to respond to opioid overdoses more than once for the same person in one day.

Such situations are tragic, but, to emergency responders, also frustrating and dangerous. Every time they are dispatched, their safety and lives are at risk during their speedy response.

But beyond being saved, the drug user faces a challenge; when administered, Narcan triggers withdrawal symptoms — symptoms with which some addicts either refuse to endure or are incapable of enduring outside the supervision of professional help.

Many opt to put their lives at risk again, rather than acknowledge their need to seek professional help and guidance.

But the current lack of any post-overdose obligation could change, and it should change — quickly.

State Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-Blair, is among Pennsylvania lawmakers sponsoring a bill — Senate Bill 654 — that would force people to seek treatment within 30 days of an overdose or risk losing immunity from prosecution related to the overdose.

In a July 10 Mirror article, Eichelberger, referring to abuse of Narcan, indicated that there have been stories about “Narcan parties,” where users have experimented with higher doses or combinations of drugs because they believed that if there was an overdose, they would be safe, with Narcan close at hand.

“Apparently, people take it a lot more casually now because they’ll always have a second chance,” the senator said.

That’s “opioid Russian roulette.”

Because there’s no single, reliable solution to the complex opioid crisis, Senate Bill 654 shouldn’t be looked upon as a panacea. However, it could turn out to be an important weapon in the battle against that crisis, because it would provide pressure and an ultimatum for users to come to grips with their need for help.

On July 7, Mirror readers received the news about county pharmacies having issued fewer prescriptions for addictive opiates and opioids in recent years.

Reporter Ryan Brown, who wrote that article, followed up on July 9 with the news that the amount of opioids prescribed between 2010 and 2015 decreased in three area counties — Blair, Cambria and Centre.

On July 10, the Associated Press reported on Buffalo, N.Y.’s experiment with the nation’s first opioid crisis intervention court, which should be regarded as a great idea.

If passed, and it should be passed, Pennsylvania Senate Bill 654 would be a significant positive step. However, officials should continue to team that up with other avenues of help and enforcement as well.