Is a heroin antidote flawed logic? - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Is a heroin antidote flawed logic?

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Senator Amy Klobuchar recently sent a letter to the Department of Justice asking the DEA to make the fight against heroin a "top priority."

Now, Klobuchar and advocates support giving first responders the tools necessary to reverse the effects of a heroin overdose, but others think an antidote would exacerbate the problem.

"That's the real dangerous thing with heroin. There's no way with any user. Even if they're savvy about drugs to know when they're going to overdose," Hazelden medical director Joseph Lee said.

The availability and purity of heroin in Minnesota leads law enforcement to call it an epidemic.

"You know the statistics are alarming," Hennepin County sheriff Rich Stanek said. Stanek has witnessed the heroin market explode with 54 overdose deaths in Hennepin County alone last year -- that's more than one per week. A few years ago, there wasn't even one heroin death per month.

To reverse that trend, experts say, they need to break the heroin culture which includes addicts being afraid to call for help for fear of being arrested.

"Because when you use heroin with other heroin addicts right now the status quo is, ‘I'll use with you but if you overdose it's every man and woman for himself,'" Lee said.

As much as 80 percent of heroin users do it another addict but more than half of overdose victims are found alone.

After her daughter's death, state Sen. Chris Eaton (DFL-Brooklyn Center) drafted legislation that would give immunity to someone who calls 911 to report a heroin overdose. It would also increase public access to a heroin antidote that could save a life.

Naloxone is a drug that reverses the effects of a heroin overdose giving them precious time to seek medical attention.

"A number of other law enforcement agencies across this country are carrying this and saving people each and every day," Stanek said.

Opponents say putting an antidote in the hands of the public will only encourage more risky behavior. Eaton says it's flawed logic.

"It's like saying putting seat belts and airbags in cars is going to cause people to go out and have more accidents," Sen. Eaton said.

"These are all-American children. These are our children. These are your children that fall prey to a disease. Naloxone is part of that solution," Lee said.

Many meeting attendees understand much of the problem stems from a relaxed attitude about prescription drugs. Consider this: 4 out of 5 heroin users start with prescription painkillers. However, heroin is cheaper, more powerful, and just as easy to get.

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