Addiction, Medical Marijuana

Harm Reduction Comes to Home of Disney World

Harm Reduction Comes to Home of Disney World

June 12, 2016 is a day that is etched into the soul of the American psyche. The day that Orlando, Florida became thought of for more than theme parks and corporate restaurants. That fated night, a 29 year old man opened fire in a gay night club, carnage ensued and shifted the worlds understanding of the central Florida city. Previous to this event, Orlando was thought of as a happy place, golf, tennis, warm sun offering a respite from the frozen Midwest and northeast, and of course, Mickey himself. What else goes on in Orlando away from the sun seekers and Disney enthusiasts? Apparently, like many cities in America, a nasty heroin problem. 

So pervasive is the opiate infestations on and subsequent overdose problem, the City of Orlando is now arming every first responder with Narcan. WESH, Orlando is reporting that all first responders, police and emergency medical professionals, will carry narcan. Narcan is an easily administered drug that can immediately block opiate reception so an individual who is overdosing will begin breathing again. While most people think of the very dramatic scene from “Pulp fiction” a narcan dose is about as exciting as nasal spray. Narcan is administered in exactly the same way as nasal spray and harmless if the unconscious person isn’t overdosing. Is this good policy

It seems as though nowhere is untouched by the opiate quagmire, not even the wholesome home of Mickey and Minnie. Narcan is safe, effective, and life saving, it is good policy for public health and to give someone a chance at recovery, as well as sparring a family the devastation of losing a family member, often a young person. There are those opposed to arming emergency personal with Narcan, saying that the practice creates a nonchalance about drug use because the looming threat of death is eliminated. That makes as much sense as forbidding fire extinguishers because people will ignore the possibility of a kitchen fire. How about “don’t install airbags, people will drive recklessly”. For some reason, Americans are deeply entrenched in the erroneous belief that drug use can be controlled with threats and logic. The simple truth is Narcan saves lives and in the world of 110+ overdose deaths per day, maybe we should all carry it?  

Florida does have medical cannabis, voted in overwhelmingly by the Florida electorate. The laws for access and distribution are just now taking shape so it’s unknown if Floridians will warm to the idea of cannabis used as a harm reduction measure to aid in helping people get and stay off opiates. A growing body of research shows that states with medical cannabis have lower rates of overdose. That just makes logical sense. Given an option of cannabis to manage pain or other ailments, some people will be able to do that and since there is no known lethal dose of the drug, even if abused, there are fewer deaths and none associated with cannabis. It’s very simple. Fewer pills, fewer overdose deaths. The truth is, it’s not cannabis that leads people to heroin, it’s pharmaceuticals. 

Orlando seems to be a pretty progressive city in culturally and politically complex Florida. It’s never really all that clear which way Florida will go. One thing is for sure, Narcan is harm reduction, it’s a baby step toward other measures but it’s in the tent with safe injection sites and certainly with Cannabis as an exit drug. 


Author: Joe Schrank