Letting Drug Addicts Die To Save A City Money Is Fucked Up

On why an Ohio city council member's proposed three-strikes and you're dead policy is a bad idea.

The nation’s opioid crisis is showing no signs of slowing down. And in the midst of the wave of fatal overdoses currently making its way across the U.S., an Ohio city council member, Dan Picard, proposed a three-strike policy to the city of Middletown, in which after emergency responders have twice provided services to drug users that have overdosed, the user would be left for dead, and denied services upon the third overdose. 

Picard says the borderline sadistic plan is a money-saving effort.

Indeed, Middletown is one of the epicenters of the U.S. opioid epimedic, a city plagued by rampant heroin abuse, and spends more on Narcan, (also known as Naloxone) the overdose reversal drug, than Middletown should, according to Picard. And each time paramedics are sent out to administer Narcan, according to data cited by Picard, it costs the city $1,104.

Middletown won’t likely be implementing the proposed policy, but that it’s even suggested reflects a morose and misinformed opinion toward drug users.

“[Someone using drugs] obviously doesn’t care much about his life,” Picard said to the Journal-News. “But he’s expending a lot of resources, and we can’t afford it.”

What Picard, and others who’ve adopted the perception of the drug user as a degenerate––equating the term to criminal––don’t take into account, is that opioid addiction is not confined to just one type of person; opioid and heroin addiction spans a diverse range of socioeconomic and racial demographics. It can happen to just about anyone.

Picard’s proposed plan would also have Middletown establishing a database of overdose victims, so as to keep tabs on the number of times individual users have OD’d.

“We'll have that list and when we get a call, the dispatcher will ask who is the person who has overdosed,” Picard said to the Washington Post. “And if it's someone who has already been provided services twice, we'll advise them that we're not going to provide further services—and we will not send out an ambulance.”

This is absurd. And contrasts the oath taken by most emergency medical responders.

Drug addiction is a disease. According to a government-run drug abuse information hub, while initial drug use may be voluntary, over time it can become involuntary, as the drugs can physically change areas of the brain that control judgment, decision making, learning, memory, and behavior control.

And according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 8 million American adults battled a mental health disorder and substance abuse disorder simultaneously.

Similarly, drug addiction actually follows a similar pattern to other diseases, like diabetes and asthma, in that a patient may go into remission but have several relapses before beating the disease entirely, according to The Recovery Village.

"We need to put a fear about overdosing in Middletown.”

One study that followed 109 recovering heroin addicts reported that 91 percent of those studied reported relapsing, with 59 percent of those relapsing within a week of treatment.

Still, despite the facts and statistics, Picard remains Grinch-like, and seemingly without reason, in his proposal.

“I want to send a message to the world that you don’t want to come to Middletown to overdose because someone might not come with Narcan and save your life,” the city councilman told the Journal-News. “We need to put a fear about overdosing in Middletown.”

Plans like Picard’s ignore the fact that 40 to 60 percent of addicts will relapse at some point in their recovery. And overdoses––especially as heroin and other drugs are increasingly being cut with potent synthetic opioids such as fentanyl––are unpredictable. The city councilman’s suggestion to put a cold, strict number on a disease that doesn’t adhere to the rules of logic, or choice, is a prime example of just how harmful a lack of understanding can be to an entire community.

Picard’s comments not only remind addicts that they are looked down on by society, but they support other equally misinformed opinions. Many rehabilitation websites maintain that relapse is not a failure, while Picard’s quotes suggest not only is it failure, but it also means one’s life isn’t worth saving.

Instead of viewing drug addicts as numbers and dollars wasted, cities in the thick of the epidemic should be reminding the public that addicts are real people who need help and not anything less than human.