Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Will You Join In My Crusade?

Today, I should be celebrating as Andy's friends are dressing in thier suits and travelling to Columbus to face the Ohio Legislature.  They are speaking in support of a bill entitled the Good Samaritan Law which is up for passage today.  This law, currently in 17 other states, protects people from prosecution if they call 911 to assist someone who is at risk of an opioid-related overdose.  So why am I so sad?

Well, for starters, it won't bring Andy back.  But then you say, think of the number of people it will save.  Well my answer is this.  It will depend upon the person or the company that individual is in. If they are using heroin as well and not acting as the designated "party police", then you are decreasing the odds that someone will have the good sense to act accordingly.   My son died alone on a bathroom floor because the drug dealer was called first.  Blue-tinged skin was the ultimate warning sign to call 911.  I do hope and pray that this law will be enacted and that teenagers' fear of possible repercussions by police will be tempered.  I'm skeptical but it may come to pass and the right call will be made. I strongly urge police to get out into the community and into the schools to educate drug users about the law so that life saving decisions can be made without hesitation.

With regard to naloxone, or Narcan - the drug used to reverse the harmful and deadly effects of an opiod like Heroin, I am truly conflicted.  Putting Narcan in the hands of parents and police sounds great as a first response agent.  It could also save lives.  I am not convinced that this is necessarily a good thing in the hands of users.  This is not a black or white issue.  There is so much gray area. There will always be the following senario, in my opinion.   There will be as many saved as there will be those that get a false sense of security.  They may tend to party more recklessly and, as a result, die.  But, again, naloxone could have saved Andy.  The paramedics tried.  It was too late.

Now the Good Samaritan Law and availability of Narcan have finally come as a result of Heroin deaths exceeding homicides and MVA's in Cuyahoga county. It could be more in your own county. But here is a sobering statistic.  The deaths in Vietnam are equal in number to drug deaths every 18 months.  What took them so freakin' long? I was down in Columbus in 2004 speaking with, then, Governor Taft's assistant.  Ten years later and shocking death rates should not be the reason you act.  Saving one life is worth this Law.

My question is why hasn't Ohio held drug dealers accountable for murder when a death occurs from their transaction?

Unfortunately some of the resistance out there was brought to my attention during a phone call from one of Andy's friends.  He was not in favor of such a law for a number of reasons.

1) "Users know they can die from Heroin".  Really?  So that's why drug dealers can get away with murder?  They don't have to be responsible for their illegal action?  That is such bull shit!  Andy didn't think he was going to die.  He wanted to get high with friends.  Teens think they are invincible.

2) "There are addicts that deal to support their habit - not to buy expensive cars."  Again, bull shit.  You are making a choice to sell an illegal substance no matter what the reason. He feels that the punishment should not be the same.  Well if you murder someone with your actions there should be a consequence determined by the court.  If you are a long time criminal then let the sentence fit the crime.  If you are an addict, then the courts should enforce mandatory treatment and probation.  As a physician, I would be hauled off in court if I caused a death.  And the medication that I prescribed is legal and I have no malintent.  Your drugs are illegal and you know that they kill.  To me this is a no-brainer.

The other comment he made was in response to my concern over teens' possible cavalier use of Heroin should Narcan be available to them.  He actually stated that "no one wants to go through opiod withdrawal - I don't think anyone would use enough heroin to experience Narcan effects".   So an addict actually knows when they are below the lethal level?  Andy didn't.  He died of 1/7th of a lethal dose because he was allergic to codeine - a drug cut into street heroin.  And now with fentanyl contaminated heroin, deaths are skyrocketing.  And secondly, wouldn't you want to feel withdrawal to know that you are alive?  Be glad you can draw breath and feel the pain!!!!

I understand his defense.  It's like Jean Valjean being punished for stealing a loaf of bread.  There are so many reasons for crimes.  They don't see the seriousness of their choice to sell drugs or the potential harm it can cause.  And it's not just the possibility of death.  Think about introducing youth to drugs which increases their risk of addiction.  And wonder if any of those individuals that were hooked on those drugs went on to die?  Ever think of that?  We all take responsibility for our actions. And hopefully we live to learn from our mistakes.  Drug dealers need to be held responsibility for theirs.

With thoughts of Les Miserable and the controversy over the degree of a crime, I ask if anyone out there will join in my crusade?  Can you hear the shouts of angry and grieving parents burying their children at the hands of these drug dealers who get away with murder?  If so, please write to your  Congressmen to make your feelings known.

Finally, thank you, Ohio, for taking the first step.  It's been a long time coming.  Let's continue the fight.