On the local news today, I saw that a county in my home state of Maryland is now requiring police officers to carry Narcan. For those who don’t know, Narcan is a drug that counter acts the affects of an opiate overdose. This county, which is at it’s closest border is about twenty minutes outside of Baltimore City, has already had 85 opiate overdoses.
The overdoses are gaining attention because they are not happening in the city where they are expected, where they happen daily. They are in a county that has three of the most expensive homes in the entire United States. This is also the county that houses are state’s capital, Annapolis. When rich people start dying off of heroin, people take notice.
I have been given Narcan before. This was almost ten years ago. Actually it was December of 2004. I was working as a seasonal worker at the Coach store at the Columbia Mall. (Yes, that is the mall that had the man go in and tragically shoot and kill two Zumees employees.) I had missed a day of work about two weeks prior due to a severe case of strep throat. I could not speak, so my mom called my manager saying that I was too sick to come in to work. When I returned to work on my next shift, with a doctor’s note, my manager reamed me out for having my mother call for me.
During this time, my husband and I were using a morphine/fentanyl based dope called “Flatline”. While I was at work, my husband would hustle up money and bring me something to get high on. We would then go out boosting, go back in town and cop again. Of course, my pay check went towards drugs as well. The job was boring, but as I am a purse addict, I enjoyed it. I have numerous Coach purses, and enjoyed selling them. They told me that once the holiday season ended, they wanted to keep me on as a full time employee. Great! Bring it on – 30% discount on Coach purses? Yes sir!
When I worked the closing shift, Aaron and I would go out boosting and in town before I went to work. This cold, cold December day was one such day. We copped and drove to the gas station that we got high at everyday. We had our routine. We pulled up to pump number one, I got out and paid for gas and a Peach Papaya while Aaron got the shit ready. I put the gas hose into the car and got in. This day, he hit me first as I was feeling particularly sick that day. Usually, We would have trouble finding a good vein to hit, but not this day. We found a vein, and an artery at that! (Arterial veins hit you faster and harder, but you have to be very careful because if the blood that you get in the needle is not super dark, almost black, if it is pinkish, your arm catches on fire and swells up. You get a crucial headache and the drugs hit you really slow. We call it “the pink blood”).
Anyway, the shit hit me and I got really hot, flushed. Everything slowed down. “Oh shit! Oh shit!” I stammered. I must have been turning blue because my husband asked me if I was ok. I couldn’t answer. He started yelling for me to get out of the car so that the bitter cold might help wake me up. But I couldn’t move. I knew what was coming, but I was powerless to stop it.
The next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital with doctors and nurses on top of me. “Where’s my fiancé? I want to see my fiancé!” I yelled. I couldn’t yet they told me. “What did you take?” they asked me. “Flatline,” I replied. They laughed and one smirked, “I guess so.” I later realized they meant what kind of opiate; heroin, Percocet, morphine, methadone, etc. I thought they meant what dope; Jigga, Ray, Flatline, Sin City, Smackdown, yadda, yadda, yadda.
They moved me to a little room in the ER where I was hooked up to IVs of fluids. I was finally allowed to see my husband (we were not married at the time, sorry for any confusion). He told me that he could hear me screaming for him. He said that he was asking to go in the room, but was denied.
Everyone there treated me like I was the absolute scum of the Earth except for one guy, who was a volunteer. He warned me to not move too much because the Narcan can make you sick as shit. Sure enough, when I got up to use the bathroom, I puked everywhere.
We didn’t get high the rest of that day. We did the next day. We got the same dope. We continued to get it for months, but I never overdosed ever again. My hubby called coach and said that I was in a car accident and was unconscious in the hospital and was not going to be at work that evening. My manager informed him that I had been told that I was not to have anyone call out for me and was fired unless I had the hospital paperwork proving that I was unconscious. I did have said paperwork, except it said “opiate overdose” on it under reason for ER visit. Under at home directions it said, “cease heroin use.” Since Coach had a very strict policy of “you do not come to work high,” I figured it was useless to even bring in my real ease papers, so I didn’t. I never went back to work there again.
In England, there is a program that sends people living prison, who are there with drug habits, home with three shots of Narcan. In Chicago there is an organization that gives five doses out at the needle exchange. Shockingly enough, these practices are controversial. I have read comments saying that people will intentionally do too much because they have the Narcan on hand. Really? People are going to try to overdose because they have a drug that might save their life? Do people with peanut allergies intentionally eat an,entire jar of peanut butter just because they are armed with an Epi-pen? No, because that is stupid as shit.
First of all, there has to be someone there to administer the shot of Narcan. The person who is overdosing is not going to be able to do it. Luckily, the doses that they give to cops and send home with prisoners can be injected into a muscle, so really anyone can do it. There is no issues with trying to find a vein. Secondly, using to the point of intentional overdose would still be Russian roulette. There is always the possibility that it won’t work. It usually does, but if they person doesn’t get hit with it fast enough, then it can not counteract the heroin. The dose of Narcan could be too weak as compared to the amount of heroin.
Why would anyone oppose something that costs, I believe the people from the program in Chicago said, less than a dollar a dose to save a life? Because a person has the disease of addiction, they don’t deserve to be saved? I have seen comments written on message boards about the subject saying as much. That since addicts consume something knowing that it kills people all time that they are basically getting what is coming to them. That’s not fucked up or anything. Human beings do things all day, everyday that kill millions of people, but we don’t say that they deserve to die. If you eat McDonalds everyday and then have a heart attack, should the ambulance drivers not try to save you? No, that sounds preposterous, and it is. So is the idea that we shouldn’t be arming police, firefighters, and the addicts themselves with Narcan.
So, bravo Anne Arundel county! This a wonderful step forward. Having a disease doesn’t make your life less valuable than someone else’s, and the disease of addiction is no different. Hopefully, other places will soon follow your lead.