‘Serves ’em right’ belief never far from heroin debate

It seems undeniable now that we’re in a health crisis with heroin, as last week’s MPR News project showed.

There are plenty of challenges when it comes to opioid abuse. One of the most difficult: the “it serves them right” mentality toward people who overdose on drugs.

It’s emerged since an antidote to an overdose has become an effective way to revive someone heading for certain death.

“Some advocate the widespread distribution of Narcan to drug users in our community. That sends the wrong message,” U.S. Attorney for North Dakota Chris Myers told KFGO Radio in Fargo last week. “That sends the message that it’s okay to use drugs because there’s an antidote available and it will save your life, which is not true. Narcan doesn’t always work.”

That seems to suggest that someone who has overdosed on opioids must serve as an example to others.

“If you are next to a rattlesnake and you have the antidote available, are you going to let the rattlesnake bite you? The answer is no,” Myers said. “And why not? Because the rattlesnake is poisonous and what’s being missed in this whole discussion is that heroin and other opiates are poison.”

Joe Schiele of Fargo has a great response to that attitude, according to today’s Fargo Forum.

“The road to addiction recovery can’t start in the morgue,” he said before a city commissioners meeting yesterday. “You can’t say they made their bed, let them die in it. That’s pretty cruel and heartless.”

Schiele, whose brother was hooked on heroin, wants police to have Narcan, an antidote to revive people who have overdosed, with them.

“Instead of standing around watching somebody die while we’re waiting for F-M [Fargo Moorhead] Ambulance, we could have first responders or police, if it were required, administer Narcan,” he told the paper.

But police officials oppose the idea because police officers would be required to undergo 40 hours of training on how to administer the drug. The police chief said the cops can administer CPR until paramedics and EMTs arrive.

Myers says defeating the epidemic requires a fundamental change in attitudes toward illegal drugs. On that point, he’s right.

Related: She lost her fiance to painkillers and went on to fight for Narcan (MPR News)

Prince death investigation focusing on drugs (Star Tribune)