During his March 10 address, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urged first responders to carry the drug naloxone, an anti-opioid that can reverse an opiate overdose.

Studies suggest that the unpleasantness of a naloxone reversal actually increases the chance that an addict will enter rehab. Holder said that the drug has saved more than 10,000 lives since 2001 and spoke in support of the 23-minute documentary, “The Opiate Effect,” based on the heroin-overdose death of my son William.

My wife Kathy’s and my firstborn son was a third-year molecular genetics major at the University of Vermont when he died. He was not a typical addict, but in the five years since his death I have learned that the typical addict is never typical.

Will was a gifted alpine skier, racing for Carrabassett Valley Academy in Europe, Canada and across the United States. While at the academy, he was offered a presidential scholarship to attend University of Vermont. When on college break, he was a popular math/science substitute teacher at Lawrence High School. His IQ still ranks as one of the highest ever recorded in Skowhegan.

Had naloxone been available to Vermont first responders in 2009 when Will’s roommates found him unresponsive, my son might have had the opportunity to pursue his dream of medical school.

People who are aware of the hole in my heart often say, “I can’t imagine.” Trust me, no one can. I never knew that a human being could experience such pain.

Maine, however, has a unique opportunity. L.D. 1686, “An Act to Reduce Preventable Deaths from Drug Overdose,” would put naloxone into the hands of first responders as Holder has suggested.

I urge others to contact their legislators and ask them to support it. The family that might be saved from living through the unthinkable might be your own.

Henry “Skip” Gates, Skowhegan

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