Driving through Portland, the countless homeless folk occupying street corners, seeking loose change, are hard to miss. One cannot help but think of what this money might be used for and a sensible conclusion might be that some of these funds end up with local drug dealers, as the homeless continue to fuel the addictions that may have landed them on the streets initially. However, the addicted homeless are not alone in struggling with substance abuse. Addictions tear apart families and take lives worldwide, regardless of socioeconomic class. Of the substances provoking an immediate concern are opiate drugs, like heroin. The high risk of a fatal overdose from opiates is unfortunately demonstrated by the regular reports of emergency medical services responding to such incidents. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that 29,467 fatal opiate overdoses occurred in 2014, a number that is on the rise. Naloxone, a saving grace amidst an epidemic, is applied by medical technicians nationwide, reversing the symptoms of overdose and saving lives. Despite much research supporting this method of fatal overdose prevention, it is alarming that not all of our first responders are equipped and trained with this tool. One would think that police officers ought to be required to have this life-saving medication on hand. Often the first to the scene of an overdose, law enforcement regularly encounters a time stringent situation, in the balance of which an individual’s survival rests. So why then, are they not required to have Naloxone with them?
-Colin Tardif