Narcan or Recovery


*Author’s note: When I was asked to write an article about my experience with narcan my first impulse was to pass. I know that I am biased. I have seen far too many dead overdose victims to be objective. I spend every Thursday night in a twelve step program with other addicts. I hear the stories, feel the pain, and refuse to buy the excuses. The stakes are too high for bullshit. Every week it seems another addict fails in recovery, and the liberal policies that help feed their denial is in my opinion just as responsible for the tragic deaths as the heroin that was injected into their veins.


“She OD’d and died.”

That is how my friend described his friend’s early demise. There was no pontificating, no excuses, no blame. It was simple, as far as he could see.

She OD’d and died.

She wasn’t a victim of the overdose “epidemic” that the RI Department of Health likes to label the recent increase of overdoses deaths as. She wasn’t a victim at all. She was an addict. And she refused treatment. And her disease killed her.

I suppose you could call her a victim, but I appreciate the sentiment from the person who was closest to her expressed. Addiction is a crummy thing, that much is certain, but there is treatment, and there is recovery. Nobody has to die from addiction. Nobody needs be a statistic that our officials can gather, and present to the media, and label the unfortunate and tragic deaths as part of an epidemic.

I’m tired of hearing about the miracle drug Narcan. There ain’t no miracle in that little vial, just some medication that will prolong the life of somebody suffering from opiate addiction. Addicts need treatment. Addicts need to have a healthy fear of the drugs that have the potential to kill them. Every addict that takes a hit needs to respect their choice, and know that they are playing a deadly game, and a river full of Narcan will never drag them away from their demons.

Narcan is available in RI through a program that gives people who may need it access to it. And it hasn’t saved a soul through the program. State Police and Marshall’s have it, and they haven’t saved a single person.

I just wonder how many people have died because of the media campaign supported by the state department of health that leads people to believe that their addictions need not be addressed as long as the miracle drug Narcan is available.

There is no epidemic. There are a lot of sick and suffering addicts who need to realize that their choices will lead to nothing good. Yeah, addiction is a disease, I get that. But the treatment is out there, they just have to seek it. And do the work.

I can see it in their eyes, as soon as they open them. It’s the classic cat who ate the canary grin, and then the smirk that follows that says; I’m going to do it again. And they do it again, and again. And we continue to respond, and keep pushing the narcan, and keep bringing them back.

I have administered narcan in an emergency setting hundreds of times during my 23 year career as an EMT in Providence, RI. Seeing a person come back from the dead, and doing so because I did something that I was trained to do, and had the materials to do it with is by far the most gratifying thing I have ever done. On an emotional level I want everybody to have the same opportunity to save the life of another person that I have had. On the surface it seems absurd to deny life saving interventions to anybody.

Providing Narcan to addicts and friends and family members of addicts will save lives. Many lives have already been saved due to programs that make the drug readily available to those at risk and the people who care for them. But I wonder; how many lives have been lost because persons addicted to opiates delay treatment? How many addicts feel the urgency of recovery slipping away with the increased access to an antidote?

Narcan will reverse the overdose but it does nothing to treat the disease.

Unfortunately, despite a fuller understanding about opiate-based narcotic addiction, the number of overdoses is escalating. According to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the overall death rate from heroin overdose in the northeastern United States increased 211 percent from 2008 to 2012. A river of narcan running through the region would probably save a few lives, but the addicts would remain, and the number of them who perish will continue to increase.

You can bring an addict to the river, but you can’t make him jump in. The most effective way to decrease overdose deaths is to prevent the overdose. Choosing to fight, and live, and reclaim the lives they have lost due to addiction becomes more urgent, and the sooner the difficult journey begins the better. Planting a seed of salvation into an addicts mind has the potential to be their undoing. Their next high could very well be their last. An increased awareness that there may be no coming back will save more lives than programs designed to delay the inevitable.
A healthy fear of the substances causing all of the heartache needs to be instilled and maintained in people at risk, and especially people who might be at risk. A person who decides to ingest substances with lethal capabilities is well aware that they are rolling the dice every time they do so. But like a person addicted to gambling, the addict truly believes that they will beat the odds, and come out on top. Making narcan readily available increases the odds in favor of the addict, at least in their minds. Having a cure available with no questions, no police and no repercussions legitimizes their habit, takes the rational fear of death and exposure away, and allows them to put off the uncomfortable, and difficult choice that they have to make.

I do not want anybody to die from an accidental overdose. But seeing the way people addicted to heroin and prescription drugs live makes me wonder if dying might not be a bad alternative. People in the recovery business-and it is just that for many, a business love to refer to “the hell of addiction” that non-addicts cannot or will not understand. By perpetuating the myth that addiction is as horrific as terminal cancer or living with multiple sclerosis they ensure that a sympathetic public bends to the perception that a readily available cure-all for overdose victims will save lives.

Perhaps if people were held responsible for their actions they would think twice before acting, and sticking needles in their arms. Maybe then the hell of addiction would be exposed for what it is, an escape from reality that unfortunately for some is permanent.


More on the subject here:


  • Gilbert Taylor says:

    I have been in EMS for nearly 30 years, I have used Narcan on many occasions which has brought back a many overdose. I hate the fact we are giving it to anyone that wants it for the “just in case.” At Boston Medical Center, when an OD is discharged, they give them a little kit which includes a cigarette and some Narcan. This is only a Bandaid on the bigger problem and solves nothing. Save lives, yea…maybe, prolong them….yes for sure, but what are we really doing? I tell you, we are enabling them. We would be better off teaching people how to do CPR or rescue breathing, a narcotic OD will hang in there if we do rescue breathing (hopefully with a BVM or Mask). We teach our first responders, the patients family members and anyone else these skills and it will help others too. Instead we give them Narcan and most can’t tell the differences in types of ODs and think this is a safety net. Addiction and other Mental Health disorders need to be treated and we aren’t treating any of them….we kick them back to the curb and hope they don’t burden us again or become an eye sore.

    • Michael Morse says:

      Thanks for that Gilbert, wish I had said it that way, would have saved me a lot of time deleting attack comments that people seem to think is their right to post if their opinion is different from my own.

  • George Joslyn says:

    As a fellow EMS provider, I know exactly how you feel. And I agree wholeheartedly. If only people on that other site weren’t so twisted in their logic to see the broader picture. I used to live in RI and growing up (in Newport) the most we really dealt with was marijuana…. Hell never even really HEARD of use of more deadly CDS. Though you’d hear about it on Thayer St etc up in Prov. Coming back to visit I talk to friends who never left about the sad state of RI… and it’s sad, drugs are permeating everywhere and nothing is being done to stop the spread…. Good luck in the future brother.

  • Steve says:

    As an emergency responder all my adult life, I say…interesting article…but do we get to judge? What’s next…not treating the obese adult coming out of the fast food joint with chest pains because “they brought it upon themselves”?

    • Michael Morse says:

      Steve, nowhere did I mention first responders not treating. Narcan is great, cops, firefighters and EMTs should all have it in their kits. It is my OPINION that making it available to the general public will increase prices, create a shortage and prolong the misery of addicyion that many people face. And no, I don’t meak by having people od and die, I mean that an addict will be more likely to make the difficult choice to get clean.

  • Deb says:

    I totally agree with everything Mr. Morse has written. I myself have battled with becoming clean and have done so because I wanted it. Now I am battling with health issues everyday that I have not control of. If getting clean is something you want you can do it. Putting Narcan in schools is just allowing to problem to continue. Parents now should learn to have more time with their family and children. Take away cell phones and computers and spend quality time with them and this just might help in the long run

  • Katie Lee says:

    I am a paramedic student writing a paper on ethics involved in Narcan use. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

  • Carolyln says:

    I probably shouldn’t even reply as I’m not a drug addict nor an alcoholic, but I know what it is to be married to an alcoholic for 44 years and watch him slowly kill himself. To hear him tell me I’d better not ever do an intervention on him or he’d throw me out of our house. To give up a 19-year-old son to suicide, in part I’m quite sure, because of the rejection, humiliation, and emotional pain of growing up in a home with an alcoholic father. To see my two older children be deeply affected by the lies and lack of attention they received from an alcoholic father and an emotionally ill and pre-occupied mother (me). Addiction is addiction, whether street drugs or alcohol. I thank God for the Al-Anon program, which saved my sanity and possibly my life. I think all addicts need to face the consequences of their choices – no excuses, no “bandaids”. They need to get in a 12-step program, or a rehab facility, and learn how to face their bad choices and how to work a program. I agree with all of your comments in your article.

    • Michael Morse says:

      Thank you for your comment Carolyln, you are welcome here anytime. Your husband took hostages when he married you, I’m sorry he never got the help he needed. I live very closely with an addict and alcoholic, and hope other people with addictions get the help they need before what happenned to your family happens to them. Alcoholics love the mantra “I’m only hurting myself,” but as your story so heartbreakingly explains that is far from the truth. God bless and stay well.

  • Monique says:

    I am a critical care nurse for a
    Community being swallowed up by prescription drug and heroin addiction. I have lost multiple friends and family members to this addiction and believe whole heartedly in the 12 step program. I just received notice that narcan will now be available in our schools. I am stunned at the amount of healthcare professionals who are against this. If the police, emt, and hospital nurses are required to give this why should the school nurse be held to a different standard? If I were the school nurse and I found a adolescent down and it was my responsibility to resuscitate them I would want the tools to do so. Maybe prevent the intubation and decrease some healthcare costs.

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