The opioid crisis is ripping through the sinews of the United States, forcing the federal government and state authorities to undertake a number of steps and implement various laws. One of the laws, the states have implemented to fight against the epidemic and reduce the number of overdose deaths is offering an easy access to naloxone, an antidote that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose, sold under brand names such as Narcan.
However, it might not be as easy as it seems, with many risks hiding in plain sight. A new research conducted by economists Jennifer Doleac of the University of Virginia and Anita Mukherjee of the University of Wisconsin has found that the state laws that provide greater access to naloxone may unintentionally uptick the problem of opioid abuse. An access to lifesaving drugs seems to be appealing to users, which in turn might induce more dangerous drug use, eventually leading to higher death rates, reckon the researchers.
The research paper, titled as “The Moral Hazard of Lifesaving Innovations: Naloxone Access, Opioid Abuse, and Crime,” was published in the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) on March 6, 2018.
Naloxone – an example of ‘moral hazard’ theory
The researchers studied the effects the wider availability of the lifesaving drug across the U.S. has on opioid abuse. On analyzing the data available from 2006 to 2015, they found that implementing the laws permitting an easy access to naloxone is actually causing an increase in the number of opioid-related emergency room (ER) visits and criminal activity, whereas mortality from opioid overdoses was unaffected or rose in certain areas.
The researchers found that the economic theory of “moral hazard” aptly applies to the predicament of the opioid crisis. Moral hazard is an economic theory which implies that people begin to do more of something when it becomes less risky. The researchers found that naloxone is just another example of a lifesaving innovation that results in a moral hazard.
Study sparks controversies
The study authors have agreed that the paper is yet to be peer-reviewed but has already provoked strong criticism, professional disagreement and personal attacks on social networking sites. Opponents have said that the study demonstrates correlation but not causation.
The strongest criticism is that the study fails to show any form of casualty. This is because the increase in ER visits reported can be caused due to numerous factors, and not necessarily an easy access to naloxone. Moreover, drug laws do not necessarily imply that people are taking naloxone immediately.
A study conducted in 2012 had found that the areas where people had naloxone kits had lower death rates due to opioid overdose.
Treatment for opioid abuse
It would be apt to conclude from the study that providing an easy access to naloxone is not a foolproof remedy and effective enough to reverse the opioid crisis. Though it saves life in case of overdose emergency, seeking further medical help is extremely important as the effects of naloxone wear off after 30 minutes. The idea behind the study was not to discourage the use of naloxone but to help people understand the need for long-term treatment.
The path to recovery begins with a person undergoing a detox program that helps in cleansing the body of the unwanted substances. This is followed by a complete recovery plan that includes a mix of treatment options like medications and therapies. If someone you know who is addicted to any form of substance, the Florida Detox Helpline can assist him/her in connecting with the best detox center in Florida. Call our 24/7 Florida detox helpline (855) 920-9869 or chat online with an expert to know about the best Florida detox centers.