When someone lives through a car crash or a house fire or a near-drowning, they’re often the subject of news coverage that has photos and lots of details. But the same isn’t true for the hundreds of Mainers each year who survive opioid overdoses because they’ve been given the antidote naloxone.

They’re nameless, faceless and easy to stereotype — as we saw this week when Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a proposal to make naloxone available over the pharmacy counter on the grounds that it merely extends lives “until the next overdose.” His groundless and heartless rejection of the measure advanced a one-dimensional view of people suffering from addiction. Maine legislators know better than buy into this broadbrushing, and now it’s time for them to show it by voting to override the veto.

Heroin use has soared in Maine over the past several years, and so have the number of heroin-related deaths. The Legislature has taken steps to counter this frightening trend by passing legislation in 2014 that increased access to naloxone by law enforcement, other first responders and friends and relatives of people who have substance use disorders.

L.D. 1547 aims to make the antidote even more widely available by allowing a pharmacist to dispense it without a prescription to those “at risk of experiencing an opioid-related drug overdose” or their loved ones. The bill acknowledges reality: Requiring people to get a prescription for naloxone can keep them from getting it at all.

Heath Myers, overdose prevention specialist for the city of Bangor, told legislators about the barriers he faced in two different hospital systems. One bars people from being prescribed naloxone if it’s for someone else’s use. Another, according to Myers, saw just two doctors in two years willing to prescribe naloxone, though the system’s chief medical officer supported access to the antidote and a full-time pharmacy resident worked to increase prescribers.

But naloxone is not meant to be a treatment for opioid addiction. Though naloxone can bring someone back, it can’t combat the cravings that are the result of chemical changes to that person’s brain structure. So, yes, some people who are addicted do relapse after they have been revived from an overdose. What this reflects is a lack of treatment resources.

Keeping naloxone out of the hands of people with addiction problems won’t keep them from wanting to get high again. It will, however, make it more likely they’ll die when they do get more opioids. Legislators who truly see people with addiction issues as fellow human beings should give them the chance to put their lives back on track by standing firm on over-the-counter naloxone access.

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