Many people were outraged when a Weymouth firefighter condemned drug users and the opioid overdose emergency medication naloxone, or Narcan, on social media (“Firefighter suspended after opioid post,” Metro, Feb. 2). While I do not condone his statements, I can imagine that a first responder could experience burnout and compassion fatigue if his contact with people with substance use disorders primarily consisted of treating life-threatening overdoses.
A part of the story often goes untold in the naloxone discussion — the path to recovery after the overdose. As a resident psychiatrist, I have a number of patients who were rescued by naloxone and, with ongoing treatment, are now drug-free and have returned to employment and other societal roles.
Effective long-term treatments exist for opioid addiction, including behavioral therapies and medications, such as buprenorphine (Suboxone), methadone, and naltrexone, that have been demonstrated to markedly decrease opioid use and help prevent relapse. Mutual-help groups are widely available and have provided paths to sustained sobriety for countless people.
While it may seem as if people who overdose and receive naloxone are “using again in hours,” as the firefighter claimed, I assure you that many are not. With proper treatment, people do recover.
The writer is on staff at Boston Medical Center.