In one day 14 overdoses were reported in Vancouver.
Nowadays it’s near impossible to avoid headlines reporting the outrageous number of overdoses happening in the Lower Mainland. Fentanyl has consistently been the culprit.
But now we have Naloxone kits to the rescue!
Naloxone kits are being handed out like Halloween candy to opiate users. The goal is to reverse the effects of a potentially fatal overdose.
The message is loud and clear: Naloxone saves lives.
The unwritten message is that Naloxone could be the very thing that kills the person it’s trying to save.
While Naloxone kits remedy the overdose, they can sadly perpetuate the psychology and cycle of addiction.
Understanding The Addictive Mindset
The mantra of addiction is immediate gratification and relief.
The challenge for addicts is to think beyond the high.
Naloxone kits seamlessly play into the addictive system by providing immediate relief. So now, not only do you get high quickly but you get to reverse the effects if they become fatal. In a sense, Naloxone kits make the addictive cycle even more efficient.
Addictive behaviours involve memory, motivation and reward. Whatever way you use to feel better gets memorized and anticipated. Being in addiction is like strapping in on a roller coaster: You’re on one track, the wheels align and you gain momentum. Fast.
Naloxone as the lifesaver emphasizes immediacy.
Immediacy underlies addiction.
Remove Consequences = Enable Addiction
Any recovering addict will tell you that without negative consequences, they would likely have stayed in active addiction.
From my experience as a therapist, what separates those in active addiction versus recovery is the fear of returning to the chaos of addiction. The risk trumps the desire to use. Those who are practicing recovery don’t just want to be sober. They know they need to stay sober.
Naloxone removes the consequences of addictive behaviour. It’s like saying to an overeater, “go crazy at the buffet but if you’ve had too much, here’s the antacid.”
If an addict can get high without negative consequences then they will.
Having something in hand to reverse the effects of an overdose keeps the addictive cycle alive.
We need to shift the focus beyond immediacy into long-term systematic change.
This means more funded beds and recovery support. We need to address the deeper issues underlying addiction such as mental health, complex trauma and the lack of meaningful social supports.
Naloxone keeps things status quo. There’s no need for the addict to do anything differently.
The perception that Naloxone is the antidote to the rampant drug problem we face needs to be challenged.
The numbers don’t lie. Each day there’s a new story about the record number of fentanyl related overdoses. Are naloxone kits reducing the amount of overdoses?
For many, Naloxone will be lifesaver. But for many it be a soft landing that turns into the next hit which could be fatal.