On Wednesday afternoon, Governor Tom Wolf announced that Pennsylvania is making naloxone, the drug that can reverse a heroin overdose, available to everyone in the state.
"We're here because we realize Pennsylvania has a problem, we have an epidemic here the likes of which we have not seen before," Wolf said before Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine signed a standing order, essentially a state-wide prescription. "Your next-door neighbors, people you know, members of your family, of all of our families—[overdoses] effect a lot of Pennsylvanians."
The move is interesting not only for its sweeping nature, but because the harm-reduction measure did not immediately trigger a deafening chorus of rage about coddling drug addicts. (In contrast, the needle exchange programs of the 1990s were roundly denounced by law-and-order types for allegedly fostering drug addiction.) That lack of opposition may indicate that heroin and other opiates are no longer seen as the purview of marginalized people of color in segregated neighborhoods.
The number of prescriptions to opioid painkillers began to spike in the late 1990s, and as of 2010, Americans consumed 99 percent of the hydrocodone on the planet. There was a quadrupling of overdose deaths from prescription painkillers between 1999 and 2013, and heroin overdose deaths in particular also nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013.
In other words, officials seem to be responding in part to the fact that too many white kids in suburbia are falling prey to these drugs.
By Jake Blumgart - Vice/Oct. 29, 2015
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