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The Narcan Butterfly Effect


There is a debate that rages on social media every time Narcan comes up; do you save heroin users with Narcan or let them die? Should medical professionals be reviving heroin addicts multiple times? Ten times? There were several car accidents recently in New Bedford involving overdoses, one involving an innocent man who was crushed by an SUV while unloading his van.

Just this month a Weymouth firefighter was suspended for 90 days over a Facebook post against using Narcan to save addicts. Here is what he posted:


Many people believe that Narcan allows addicts to take risks knowing that they will be revived should they overdose. Police in Massachusetts are even finding used Narcan kits in drug dealers’ homes.

Eight used Narcan kits were found in the Davidson Ave. apartment. Marhefka reportedly told police that she had dispensed the Narcan to users who overdosed in her apartment. Two unopened kits and more than 100 dirty syringes were also found at the apartment.

Most people are compassionate and believe in saving drug abusers unlimited times, or until they get help. You will hear frequently, “If it was your son, daughter, brother or sister, you’d change your tune and want to save them.”

While saving addicts is a must, there is a Butterfly Effect on society.

First, there is a high cost associated with saving a person overdosing. Not only does Narcan cost the taxpayers in Massachusetts millions of dollars annually, it costs thousands of dollars every time emergency personnel arrive on the scene and save an overdosing person. When a person overdoses and someone calls 911, you will generally see police, fire and EMS personnel arrive on the scene to save the person. Additionally, if fire, police and EMS are responding to overdosing victims then resources are not only strained, they may not be available for another emergency like a fire, heart attack or care accident.

Second, overdosing victims are not only a danger to themselves, they can be a danger to the public should they overdose while driving a car. This past weekend a man overdosed while driving a Ford F250, hitting and snapping a utility pole. Medics arrived, administered Narcan and saved the mans life.

Last month a man seriously injured another man reportedly on the way to a methadone clinic. He was speeding down Bellville Avenue and likely passed out at the wheel colliding with a parked van, crushing one man between his SUV and the van. A second man near the van was also injured. The first victim was hurt so bad that he needed to be evacuated by helicopter to a Rhode Island hospital. The driver of the vehicle was overheard saying that he was on his way to a methadone clinic downtown.

While Narcan is a great tool to bring overdosing people back to life, there are consequences that the rest of society must deal with, especially when overdose victims are allowed back on the street the same day. Yes, addicts overdosing are brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, but what if you save a man from overdosing and that man then cripples or kills your loved one who was simply trying to unload tools out of his/her work van? In Massachusetts, thousands of people are being saved with Narcan each year; good or bad, this has caused and will cause a Butterfly Effect that we all have to deal with.

What do you think? Is Narcan a good or bad thing for our community? Is there a limit to how many times Narcan should be used on the same patient? Or unlimited use?

About Michael Silvia

Served 20 years in the United States Air Force. Owner of New Bedford Guide.

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  1. I am appalled at how much NARCAN had been used to save these addicts lives what about three homeless peopleor these cancer patients that’s were this money there using on NARCAN should be used unless it’s an accidental overdose

    • people dont overdose on purpose and most homeless people are addicts to begin with who self medicate for untreated mental illnesses and they actually give narcan for free to addicts and different clinics in the city anyway learn a bit more about the facts before being judgy. being an addict is no more a choice than someone being gay or having cancer but if i said if gays get aids you should let them die what would people say to that. althouh you could argue being gay doesnt mean you should have careless sex anyway but learn more before judging.

      • Being an addict is a choice. People choose to use and they can choose to stop. Someone with cancer can’t wake up and say “I really don’t want my body to kill me any longer” and poof- the cancer magically goes into remission.

        The idea that this scum commit crimes and then are ‘saved’ to commit even more crimes is revolting. Let the parasites die- they are no different from the fleas living off the blood of a dog or cat.

  2. As a Public Health Nurse, I truly believe that the use of NARCAN has become a detriment to the Opiod Crisis. While people will argue that it is saving lives, it is also allowing addicts to no longer worry about death or the outcomes of abuse of the opiate. They believe, “hell if I OD, they will give me the stuff and take care of it.” Further they become belligerent and assaultive in many cases against the emergency personnel, ER staff and others screaming about, “my high is ruined for the day because of you”. It is now time for society to realize that Darwin’s rule of selection needs to be allowed to run without interference. THe billions of dollars that we are spending on this crisis is a waste of money and time. Opiate addiction is not a disease it is a choice, one made by a weak mind without coping skills and use the drugs, alcohol or whatever to numb their senses. This is not a solution. We do not have enough beds for detox programs and places like SSTAR keep their current clients waiting for hours and days for treatment, but push every new intake through as a priority to not provide services. This is a major money maker and is the new Industrial Machine for the country.

    • I fully agree with you, this just emboldens them escape consequences and to not get help. I feel bad for that firefighter as they were right but weren’t in the correct position to make that statement.

    • I would like to say that we can blame big pharma for the clime in opiate dependency. I will paint with a broad brush when I say most of us experiment with some types of drugs when we are younger. If OC’s, Oxycontin were not brought to the market and the executives who said they were not that addictive, this epidemic would not be as out of proportion as is currently is. I also disagree that it is a choice, when the addicted person is clean for a period of time then it is a choice if they pick up, however when the addict is using daily… they need that drug to function. The doctors were receiving kick backs for prescribing these drugs. The bottom line is there is no cure and no one really gives a shit about the addict, everyone is just trying to cash in and they will continue to say only the strong survive, let the weak addicts die. Other countries have supposedly found cures, and guess what USA did? We outlawed it!

  3. After reading this article, I paused but what happens to the people if narcan wasn’t there at all They overdose Is that OK? I can see some people abusing it but this isn’t the only thing plaguing our society, same goes with guns being on the streets and many people getting killed all too soon, my friend lost her son to a being in the wrong place wrong time…..this is what the firefighter said, only he was cruel. He tried to say that all these resources are being abused but he got suspended. You have said the same only thing only in different way. Should all addicts deserve to die? Lots of prescription drugs are being overused do these people deserve to die too? I think narcan needs to be available so people like me who pass someone in the park overdosing have a chance to live!

  4. Narcan is one small piece of this crisis. Yes, it does have a valid use in some cases and it is an amazing thing to watch the rapid change from respitory arrest to sitting up talking. Many times the victim themselves arguing and denying that they were on the verge of death. However….just because Narcan is not available at a narcotic overdose does not mean the victim will die. Regardless of all the media hype, it is not the only way to very effectively treat an opiate Overdose. Narcan is a relatively easy tool to use in the battle but it is not the only way to keep the victim alive. I have been working as an EMT for 29 years. I have been treating narcotic overdose’s pretty much since my first year in the field. I still clearly remember the first one. I remember the address, the apartment, and the name of my partner on that day. For a significant portion of that time we treated opiate overdoses without Narcan…and ya know what? We still saved them. Narcan seems to have made it to the forefront of the media in this crisis. NARCAN IS NOT THE SOLUTION. It is just one tool to help treat an overdose. The real problem is not use or lack of use of a particular medicine or treatment option. The real problem certainly isn’t a frustrated firefighter who vented on the Internet. Yes…his words were harsh and stirred up a lot of discussion but his words are just a symptom of this problem. ANYONE with real, long term personal experience with a victim of an ongoing opiate drug addiction understands the excruciating frustration it causes. He just made the mistake of posting it publicly. I don’t know him but I would like to think that he was just venting that frustration and still does the right thing for his patients regardless of said frustration. I have seen Narcan mis-used as many times as it was properly used. I have actually heard of incidents of patients NOT getting lifesaving treatment (rescue breathing) because of the person administrating the Narcan thinking it was some kind of magic wand. It is not. A single treatment method is not what needs to be addressed. It is far more complicated and systemic. I have my thoughts on this but…it is the policy makers that need to fix the problem…not the foot soldiers forced to fight the battle in the streets. Support your public safety workers. To my fellow EMS, Police, and Firefighters…. Be safe!

  5. I think that Narcan is being over used. It should be a one shot deal. The same individual overdosing time and time again should not be allowed. It was ment to save a life in case of an accidental overdose. More than one OD is not accidental. Its making an excuse for an addict to continually overdose recklessly. It should be ment as a second chance and as a wake up call and have that individual to go get help immediately. The circle has to be severed and a solution should be made instead of just saying oh its ok to overdose I got narcan to save me if it should happen again! It makes no sense and gives the addict no incentive or responsibility to take action and get the much needed help they need and deserve. I understand the vicious cycle of addiction, but there has to be a fine line in the order of things.

  6. Obviously we’re not using the thousands/millions of dollars effectively. After one overdose revival, there is No adequate follow-up help/intervention. Who are we fooling when we release a person who is addicted back into the same lifestyle? They’re addicted! Of course there’s a huge chance they’re going to do it again. And then we have the nerve to complain about it.
    Food addiction and alcohol addiction costs us even more money and more health problems annually, but because a large majority of us have one or the other, and won’t admit it, we judge the drug users and veer our negative attention to them.
    Take a walk up to your mirror and take a good close look. Are you in a position to judge others? Btw, cancer can be caused by poor lifestyle habits and addictions. Read up. None of us have the right to play God.

    • They choose to use, they choose to overdose, they choose to die. If anything intervening is “playing God” by interrupting the natural result of a junkie’s stupidity.

      Of course everyone has a food addiction. We all have oxygen and water addictions too. That’s not quite the same as choosing to inject heroin then whining about how it’s “ruined your life”.

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