Last month, Governor Paul LePage of Maine vetoed a bill that would allow pharmacists to sell an anti-overdose drug without a prescription.
According to LePage, the drug, Naloxone, “does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose.”
He went on to say that passing the bill would create “a situation where an addict has a heroin needle in one hand, and a shot of Naloxone in the other,” and stressed that it would “[produce] a sense of normalcy and security around heroin use that serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction.”
In a racially-charged town hall meeting, LePage also blamed dealers with names like “D-Money” and “Smoothie” for the heroin crisis. He later apologized and claimed he wasn’t talking about black dealers alone.
Many don’t share his point of view, however; 30 states allow the drug to be sold without a prescription.
Ultimately, Maine lawmakers overruled LePage’s veto.
Naloxone, which is inexpensive, easy to administer, and harmless to others, has allowed families to save loved ones from overdosing. In Maine, where a heroin epidemic claimed the lives of 272 people in 2015 alone as reported by the Portland Press Herald, the drug seems crucial in finding a way to prevent heroin related deaths from going up another 31%, like it did from 2014 to 2015.
In some states, Walgreens and CVS sell Naloxone without a prescription. In February, Walgreens stated plans to make the drug available without prescription in 35 states and Washington, D.C.
The “traditional” way to deal with the recent heroin epidemic is to put people in jail; however, it’s been proven that incarceration doesn’t necessarily “cure” addiction or prevent overdose. Some drug intervention programs have also been proven to be unsuccessful since they might curve addiction to something else, such as nicotine.
Psychiatrist Arthur Dingley of Evergreen Behavioral Services believes that the best way to help get people off heroin is through a recovery motivational therapy model that helps users determine their challenges. Counseling begins by helping addicts determine where they think they are, and the first step is to engage personally in order to start making changes.
Dingley stated that if you can help someone complete the first step, you can help them get off the drug and “back into life.”
Some programs now allow people to turn in illegal drugs, paraphernalia, and misused prescription medication to police stations with amnesty. Maine State Senator Tom Saviello wants to introduce a bill that will allow uninsured, incarcerated addicts to get healthcare insurance that will allow them to get treatment.
Hotlines and resource centers include:
- SAMHSA, a national helpline open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
- Recovery, a website useful for finding local addiction recovery centers or helplines.
- TheGoodDrugsGuide.com for helplines for heroin addiction, along with addictions including crystal meth, cocaine and alcohol.
By Amanda Delgado