Dec 082011
 
Authors: Jesse Benn

Over the last few weeks, Fort Collins lost three of its residents to what every indication suggests were heroin overdoses. In the wake of these losses, and in honor of them, it’s time for us to rethink how we educate our community about the dangers associated with using heroin, as well as ways they can be minimized.

They say the only things guaranteed in life are death and taxes. Well, I’d like to humbly submit another pair of guarantees: people are going to have sex and do drugs.

One of these guarantees is acknowledged in our public sphere of education. And most Americans believe that an effective sex education program should go beyond an abstinence-only approach. Even if abstinence is the ideal, we all know better — people are going to have sex––and our sex education in public schools is generally based on this reality.

But here’s another reality: people are going to do heroin.

It doesn’t matter where you live; no town is too small, no city is immune and no “war” on drugs will ever be complete enough. The human desire to alter ones reality with the use of substance has been around as long as we have, and it’s not going anywhere soon.

In fact, we are only getting better at altering our reality as time goes on. Instead of facing the frightening prospect of sticking a needle in your arm, heroin addiction is now just a pill or two away. And don’t worry, once you find out how much you like it, that needle will start to look a lot less intimidating.

This same process that creates new, more powerful drugs to alter our reality simultaneously creates new, more effective ways to reverse their potentially dangerous effects.

One such drug, Naloxone, also known as Narcan, reverses the effects of an opiate overdose. Yes, you read that right – Narcan can save a would-be overdose victim’s life.

Remember the overdose scene in “Pulp Fiction?” Well, it’s not near as dramatic as that, but the important results are the same. You take someone who is dying of a heroin overdose, you administer a dose of Narcan, and voila – you no longer have to explain to Marcellus Wallace that you killed his wife.

I’m not even really simplifying it. Narcan is even capable of being delivered through a nasal spray – something that can be done by someone with no medical expertise.

Now I’m sure everyone who is reading this already knew that you could overdose on heroin, but how many of you knew it was that easy to reverse the effects of a potentially fatal overdose?

Hell, I knew it was possible, but even I didn’t realize it was as simple as using Nasonex before I sat down to write this column.

Coincidentally, Narcan is also cheaper than a bottle of Nasonex. A dose of Narcan, to be delivered with a needle, costs around $ 6 in the US, and the nasal spray is closer to $20.

And while some of us who don’t use needles on a regular basis may find the idea of giving Narcan out in its needle form unsettling, ask someone who uses insulin shots to treat their diabetes, or a heroin addict who routinely shoots up, and you’ll find they aren’t so squeamish.

Several cities across the US have implemented programs that include providing Narcan to addicts, their friends and their family.

One such city, San Francisco, recently reported the 600th life saved through the program since its start in 2003.

With such an effective way to reverse the fatal effects of a heroin overdose – and the recent string of heroin-related deaths in the Fort (one is too many) – it’s time we adopt similar, common-sense tactics, educate the public about Narcan and make prescriptions of it available.

Would this have saved anyone last week? I don’t know. Maybe not. But I do know that it needs to start somewhere. And a change in culture, particularly in a small town like Fort Collins, is possible.

For the most part, I grew up here, and I’ve watched the town’s culture change. When I was in high school around the turn of the millennium, I’d never heard of Oxycontin – and I was the type of kid who probably would have.

Just a few years later, as my younger siblings went through the same school district, Oxycontin was a prevalent way to get high. Now, a few more years later, it seems all-too-often that I get the text message that so-and-so died. And not to be callous, but I usually know the answer before I bother to ask how.

Implementing an aggressive, more realistic drug education program in our local schools that teaches both how to avoid use, and how to safely deal with use, as well as making Narcan readily available in Fort Collins, could quickly change the culture of use in our town, as weel as save lives in the future.

Jesse Benn is a senior political science major who drinks too much Mountain Dew. His column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. He can be reached at letters@collegian.com.

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