Heroin is all over the news lately. From a rash of overdoses locally due to a batch dubbed “TheraFlu” earlier this year, to actor Philip Seymour Hoffman overdosing in New York City, and countless area burglaries to feed habits, it seems that we can’t turn on the news, browse the Internet, or read a newspaper without hearing about a heroin-related story.
And now, it gets even worse. Last week, the Food & Drug Administration fast-tracked its approval of an opioid overdose antidote in the form of an easy to use injectable pen, similar to the EpiPen, which is lifesaving in the case of allergic reactions.
Called Evzio, the pen contains naloxone, which has been used in emergency rooms and by paramedics for quite some time. The device would be available by prescription for friends and family members to administer in the case of an accidental overdose, and actually gives spoken instructions on its use upon activation. Medical care is still necessary after it is administered.
Here’s the problem – heroin is a drug more powerful than any other, especially when you look at its effects on not just the addicts themselves, but family members and friends of the addicts as well. It grabs a hold of its abuser, and it only takes one time to become an addict or to overdose. To feed their habits, people will beg, cheat, lie and steal – and they don’t care from who.
These people already know that each time they shoot up, they run the risk of dying. Why, then, should we offer them a safety net? Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius stated that Evzio is part of a government strategy to reduce opioid addictions. The way we see it, all the access of Evzio is going to do is going to feed those addictions, because it takes one of the risk factors out of the equation – provided someone is on hand to administer the antidote, of course.
In the case of the TheraFlu batch, there were actually addicts who, upon hearing about its potential dangers, sought it out to try. With Evzio available, the odds of that happening will actually increase.
And, what will happen if the addict can’t get a fix, but has Evzio around? Will it be abused, too? Probably.
Evzio is being marketed to not just opioid addicts, but to basically everyone – scenarios where it can be useful include an elderly person getting confused and accidentally taking two or three times their prescribed dose of medication, a toddler getting into the medicine cabinet, or a person accidentally taking prescribed medications and not realizing that it is dangerous to drink alcohol while on them. In those cases, yes, it would be great to have on hand, but we have to wonder how many people with elderly parents, toddlers, or just on medications period would actually seek out a prescription for Evzio.
Lets not forget the cost – it hasn’t yet been determined, but its manufacturer, kaleo Inc., has expressed a desire for it to be as widely available as possible, and for cost not to be an issue.
For opioid addicts, there are only two ways out – death or sobriety. And now, with the risk of death decreased, we worry that the rate of sobriety will, too.
When Pittsburgh Police canine officer Rocco died after suffering stab wounds in the line of duty in late January, area government officials were quick to draw up “Rocco’s Law,” a proposed bill that would amend Pennsylvania’s Dog Law to increase penalties for the torture or killing of a police dog from a third to second degree felony.
As it is now, the consequences for taunting a police dog are the same as those for killing the animal. Making the act a second degree felony will increase the penalty to a fine of $25,000 and up to 10 years behind bars.
Senator Matt Smith (D-Allegheny/Washington) pioneered the bill, and thankfully, it passed through the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee unanimously on March 31.
“We are one step closer to final Senate passage,” Smith said on March 31. “There is significant bipartisan, bicameral support in the General Assembly for Rocco’s Law and I thank the committee chairs, Senators (Elder) Vogel and (Judith) Schwank for their swift action to move my bill forward.”
In the next step, the bill goes before the full senate for consideration.
“We are committed to sending the governor a strong set of bills to serve as a deterrent for anyone who would dare harm a canine officer,” Smith also said.
Smith and fellow Allegheny County senators sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary and Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committees urging quick action on both House Bill 2026 and Senate Bill 1261, and so far, their voices have been heard.
This is a great example of government working for the good of the people, and in this case, animals, too. When politicians forget about party lines and just focus on what matters, a lot of good can be accomplished, and it can be accomplished quickly.
It would be wonderful if the cooperation to work together and act on a serious matter at the local level could funnel up to the national level. So much more could get accomplished, and the United States could run as a safer, more efficient machine.
At the end of the day, it’s not about being a republican, democrat, libertarian, or independent. It’s about being human, and working together to move things forward.