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"Naloxone: Moral Hazard and "Narcan Parties"

The Tired Narrative: 

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that saves lives by reversing the respiratory effects of a fatal overdose. News articles have questioned the value of increasing access to naloxone by invoking the concept of "moral hazard" based on a single study by economists. 

News articles have also reported that naloxone access has created a disturbing trend called "Narcan parties," in which users get together and intentionally inject fatal doses of an opioid because they know a friend nearby has naloxone to reverse the effects. Such articles often use terms like "Narcan party," "enabling," and "Lazarus drug."  

The Informed Narrative: 

Instead of using the brand name "Narcan," it is important for journalists to use the generic name "naloxone," so as not to promote one company's product. Naloxone can be described as an "antidote to opioid overdose." It works by reversing the respiratory effects of an overdose. 

The notion of "Narcan parties" has been traced back to quotes made by police officers. When pressed, they admit to never having seen one, nor do they have evidence that they occur. 

 

The "moral hazard" argument also flies in the face of evidence showing naloxone access to be a vital public health intervention supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Surgeon General. 

WHY?

 

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that reverses the effects of an overdose. The widespread availability and access to naloxone has saved countless lives. The vast body of literature on naloxone finds no evidence that increased access leads to riskier drug-using behaviors. Since naloxone is an antagonist, users try their best to avoid being given a dose at all costs, as it could precipitate extremely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. The idea that drug users intentionally overdose because naloxone is nearby perpetuates myths and stereotypes that people with addiction are irrational and hedonistic. 

 

Connect with Expert Sources:

Leo Beletsky, Northeastern University

Louise Vincent, drug user activist, Reframe the Blame