I decided to strike back against Big Pharma and the Taliban this week. Now, as a rural Pennsylvania woman facing down her approaching golden years, you might wonder how I got my hands on some rocket-propelled grenades and a military drone. I didn’t have to, because there are other ways of getting things done.
Along with a roomful of other area residents, I am attending a drug awareness and Narcan training session at the New Bethlehem fire hall. That sounds pretty tame and feel-good liberal, and you know I am neither. Mostly, I want to learn how to save somebody’s life if I have to.
There’s an unlovely and unloving part in all of us, and we sometimes say things that we haven’t thought all the way through. I struggle against this myself some days, but I like to think that I win most of the time.
You might hear your friends and family say that we should let overdose victims die. Drug users decided to break the law, take opiates and commit related crimes. Their lives aren’t worth much.
Folks, we still have law and order in place, and we are not judge, jury and executioner by any means. My Bible says that God has the final say in these matters. But then, I don’t pretend to be a theologian and am merely an average humble sinner.
We can sin through acts of omission, and that includes denying Narcan to people in trouble.
If you feel a real need to get your knickers in a bunch, take a look at some of the big pharmaceutical companies that developed powerful synthetic opioids. That in itself is a fine thing, because there are times when they are really needed. Big Pharma’s sin was in overpromoting these drugs and lying to medical professionals about the risk of addiction.
The motive? Raking in piles of dough without any concern about what happens to the average person who becomes addicted. And you know, the love of money is the root of all evil.
Which leads us to the next part of the equation, the Taliban. No, that set of bad guys hasn’t gone away despite all the noise about ISIS, Syria, Russia, China, North Korea, etc. They’re still in business.
The way it works is diabolically simple. The Taliban provide protection for Afghan opium farmers, average guys trying to make a living in a tough environment while being hassled by their government. In return, the Taliban takes a cut of the profits to fund their own activities, and peddles opium for a little extra cash to those who need a heroin fix.
The bad news is, their best customers are in the U.S. and Europe. The good news? There isn’t any.
There’s a ready market here in our own backyards. Folks who needed Big Pharma’s drugs for health problems, got addicted, couldn’t get legitimate refills of their prescriptions and turned to cheap and plentiful heroin just to make it through the day.
They might be somebody that you know who never lets on that there’s a problem.
This isn’t an intellectual exercise for me. My special friend, John Gresham, died two years ago from necrotizing fasciitis, the original flesh-eating disease for want of a better term. If he had survived, there was a real possibility that he would still have been in excruciating pain after three months in an ICU.
John was given fentanyl and ketamine to alleviate most of his pain. He would have been addicted for the rest of his life, and that gives me pause. What would I have been willing to do to make sure that he had the drugs that kept him from writhing in agony, which is not something you really want to watch?
That’s just a for-instance, but sometimes you have to take a hard look at life, and at yourself.
In case you’ve missed it in the news, fentanyl and ketamine have made their way into street drugs, and they are killing our people.
Could you let a neighbor’s kid die on the sidewalk because he did something dumb? Your grandchild? Maybe an aunt or uncle?
Everybody belongs to someone, is special to somebody, has worth even in small measure, is someone’s child. Once somebody becomes addicted, the person he used to be no longer exists. All the same, he is still human and still has a precious immortal soul.
The way I look at it, I may save a life because of the Narcan training. And that’s one American life that the bad guys didn’t get.
[Susan Kerr is a semi-retired freelance writer living in her hometown of New Bethlehem. Previously, she was the managing editor of a regional-interest magazine and a business journal in State College.]