In 2017, a documentary called Heroin(e) was released. (It was later nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject.) It followed first responders in a small Appalachian city as they respond to calls about opioid overdoses. These incidents had become so common that in one scene, a woman is treated with naloxone at a grocery store counter while the people around her continue to shop. During the course of the film, you see paramedics return to the same home and treat the same person for overdose twice in one day.
For some people, the movie seemed hopeful. The first responders were non-judgmental and treated their patients like ordinary people, with compassion. Others, however, turned a more critical eye and wondered, is it worth it? For those who have struggled with addiction themselves or face it with a loved one, it sounds too terrible to even wonder in the privacy of the mind, but for some people, all they see is a price tag. How much money is spent paying the paramedics, acquiring the naloxone they use to treat overdoses, fueling up the ambulances? What’s the point, they ask, in treating these people who are just going to continue to use over and over again and never seem to learn their lesson?
Each dose of naloxone costs about $38. To fill up the gas tank in an ambulance, you’re looking at maybe $200, depending on current gas prices. EMTs earn an average of $17.64 per hour. This doesn’t take into account wear and tear on the truck and any other incidental costs.
So, why is it worth it? The first and most obvious answer seems to be “because we’re human beings.” These people are our neighbors, if not our friends. Can we really just stand around and watch them die? Who are we to judge that someone isn’t worth being saved? People put themselves at risk all the time. We continue eating fatty foods, smoking cigarettes, or driving recklessly, even when we’re warned against it, and we end up at a clinic or hospital causing insurance companies to pay for things that were totally preventable. No one is suggesting that these people be allowed to die.
A large part of it is the lingering stigma of addiction. We assume that if someone overdoses they weren’t smart enough to avoid it. We ask why they ever would have started doing drugs in the first place. The cynical among us assume they probably weren’t contributing to society anyway. The truth is, none of us can know what drives someone else to use drugs. They might have a mental health disorder or some horrific event in their past. They might be a wonderful person with a good job who just happened to hit a rough patch. It’s tempting to judge, but we have to remember that we don’t always have all the facts.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504.