By now, we should be used to this. It’s been six years since the overdose antidote naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, entered our political discourse.

Since the first attempt to make the medication widely available was introduced in 2013 (and vetoed by then-Gov. Paul LePage), the fear that you would encourage drug use by reviving someone from overdose has been worn down by the facts.

As a state, we have all had to learn that people with substance use disorder can’t be expected to make rational choices when a compulsion is overriding their judgment. It’s a disease of the brain that can be treated, but only when the patient is alive. Six years and 1,600 overdose deaths later, we’ve learned that you can’t save someone from substance use if you can’t save them from overdose.

This year, another naloxone bill is before the Legislature. This one would make the antidote more available in public schools, and like the bills that have come before it, this measure is facing opposition from people who are worried that it would send a message of tolerance to people who might not otherwise risk taking an opioid.

By now, Mainers should know better. Anyone who would inject a drug into their veins is not weighing the pros and cons of what might happen. They are not looking for a sign from a high school principal to decide if taking opioids is a good idea.

Narcan is not a high-risk substance. It slams the overdosing patient into sudden withdrawal, leaving them with all the unpleasant symptoms that come with it. It does not cure addiction, but it gives people another chance to go into treatment.

That makes this an important bill, even though there do not appear to be many overdoses in schools. The measure’s passage would help put to rest the notion that we can fight a war on drugs, letting people die because of the message it would send to others.

After six years, the Narcan debate should be settled. Where should it be available? Wherever someone might overdose. Who should have it? Anyone who might be in the position to save a life.



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