Sadly, unbelievably it has come to this.
Heroin and opioid abuse in Greater Cincinnati has become so bad that some are looking to children to deliver naloxone to save the life of someone dying from an overdose.
While well-intentioned, providing kids with the training to properly inject medicine through a vein, muscle or the nose is a very bad idea. No child should have such a responsibility, regardless of the circumstances.
The most recent effort to train kids to administer naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, comes from a concerned Bullitt County mom named Jennifer Stepp. Her son, 25, is a recovering heroin addict. Jennifer is on a mission to train kids, including her 8-year-old daughter, to administer the drug, as reported by The Enquirer’s Terry DeMio.
Last year, a Northern Kentucky nonprofit began training children ages 13 to 17 to administer the life-saving drug because drug use is so prevalent where the children live.
Few people can understand the pain and suffering of a family whose loved one is addicted to heroin. Financial and emotional catastrophes often accompany hopelessness.
The Enquirer has been at the forefront in covering this epidemic, and the editorial board has led the way in encouraging a treatment- rather than punishment-focused approach to heroin. We supported the successful effort to pass legislation in Kentucky earlier this year allowing needle exchanges, making naloxone more widely available and protecting Good Samaritans who help overdose victims.
But saving a dying addict is the wrong fight for kids, and it contradicts what we’ve told them for years concerning handling needles and the health risks they pose, such as HIV and hepatitis.
Treating an overdose victim also isn’t as easy as it appears. Naloxone sends addicts into immediate withdrawal, and they can be violent when they regain consciousness.
Sadly, heroin addiction seems to be getting worse, particularly in Northern Kentucky and rural areas of Ohio. CBS’ 60 Minutes highlighted the problem Sunday by interviewing Columbus area addicts and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who called it “the worst drug epidemic I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
The Enquirer has reported that 13,000 heroin users served jail time last year, and more than 300 users died in Greater Cincinnati.
Ultimately, only a collaborative effort from law enforcement, lawmakers, health care professionals – and, yes, a caring community – will get results.
But the best way for kids to help is to be trained in how to recognize an overdose and quickly seek a trusted adult for help. The message that should be impressed upon them for drug overdoses is the same as for any other emergency: Call 9-1-1.
The Kentucky Enquirer