‘Serves ’em right’ belief never far from heroin debate

It seems undeniable now that we’re in a health crisis with heroin, as last week’s MPR News project showed.

There are plenty of challenges when it comes to opioid abuse. One of the most difficult: the “it serves them right” mentality toward people who overdose on drugs.

It’s emerged since an antidote to an overdose has become an effective way to revive someone heading for certain death.

“Some advocate the widespread distribution of Narcan to drug users in our community. That sends the wrong message,” U.S. Attorney for North Dakota Chris Myers told KFGO Radio in Fargo last week. “That sends the message that it’s okay to use drugs because there’s an antidote available and it will save your life, which is not true. Narcan doesn’t always work.”

That seems to suggest that someone who has overdosed on opioids must serve as an example to others.

“If you are next to a rattlesnake and you have the antidote available, are you going to let the rattlesnake bite you? The answer is no,” Myers said. “And why not? Because the rattlesnake is poisonous and what’s being missed in this whole discussion is that heroin and other opiates are poison.”

Joe Schiele of Fargo has a great response to that attitude, according to today’s Fargo Forum.

“The road to addiction recovery can’t start in the morgue,” he said before a city commissioners meeting yesterday. “You can’t say they made their bed, let them die in it. That’s pretty cruel and heartless.”

Schiele, whose brother was hooked on heroin, wants police to have Narcan, an antidote to revive people who have overdosed, with them.

“Instead of standing around watching somebody die while we’re waiting for F-M [Fargo Moorhead] Ambulance, we could have first responders or police, if it were required, administer Narcan,” he told the paper.

But police officials oppose the idea because police officers would be required to undergo 40 hours of training on how to administer the drug. The police chief said the cops can administer CPR until paramedics and EMTs arrive.

Myers says defeating the epidemic requires a fundamental change in attitudes toward illegal drugs. On that point, he’s right.

Related: She lost her fiance to painkillers and went on to fight for Narcan (MPR News)

Prince death investigation focusing on drugs (Star Tribune)

  • Al

    Lost two uncles to substance abuse. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d have also said they brought it upon themselves. Which still does nothing to lessen my empathy for their struggle and pain.

    We all deserve a lot of the things that happen in our lives, but that doesn’t negate our need for compassion for ourselves and others.

  • Suzanne


  • wjc

    Sadly, empathy is sorely lacking in our society.

  • jon

    “What’s being missed in this whole discussion is that heroin and other opiates are poison.”
    If being able to overdose on something makes it poison we better all stop drinking water! That stuff can kill you, not just via drowning but just drinking to much can be fatal!
    I believe it takes around 1 gram of straight caffeine… poison!

    Heck police probably shouldn’t carry AEDs on account of it just encouraging people to live an non-heart healthy lifestyle, because there is a cure right there for their first heart attack.


  • fromthesidelines21

    The police think it is preferable to do CPR than administer a potentially life saving dose of Narcan because they would have to take time to be trained? Outside of the cost of the training I can’t see any reason why they would not want to have the best methods possible to Serve and Protect available.

  • Kassie

    My understanding of Narcan is that if given to someone who isn’t having an opiate overdose there is no effect, but will potentially save someone who is. If that is the case, why have a 40 hour training required? Make it a one hour online training and there is no excuse to not have it in all first responder vehicles.

    • Postal Customer

      Maybe they could stick in all the AED boxes. Or maybe we should just give it to addicts so they have it, like the needle exchanges.

      • John

        I was watching a show on opioid addiction, and one of the curious things that the person administering Narcan said was that the patient sometimes fights against it (as much as one having a narcotic overdose can fight).

        The patient knows what’s about to happen, and they absolutely, positively do not want that high getting stopped by the Narcan. Even if it means they will probably die. That was the scariest thing I’ve seen about addiction and its power over the person who is addicted.

        • Postal Customer

          I believe it. Did you ever read that Kurt Cobain biography that came out in the 90s? Maybe there were a bunch, I don’t know. But i read one that was really good. There was a sizable portion on his addiction.

          Basically, imagine trying to stop breathing.

  • Angry Jonny

    If you’re looking for a climate given towards understanding and empathy towards [insert social ill here], Fargo/Moorehead is probably not the best place to go searching. One has to stretch a few standard deviations away from the midpoint to begin to encounter compassion.