Oh, if I had a dime for the number of times I have seen this meme on Facebook!
Okay, first of all, the fact that insulin prices have skyrocketed is a downright crime. But don’t blame the addicts. It’s not our fault. Complain to the drug manufacturers who artificially inflated the prices. The free Narcan handouts are usually paid for through grants and non-profits. The two situations are not related at all. So take a seat.
Second, Narcan is handed out free to the public as a RESCUE medication. It can be used by the untrained public to rescue someone in an overdose with no deadly side effects if they administer it incorrectly or to the wrong person. Unlike insulin. But it is a rescue medication — same as if you went into diabetic ketoacidosis from eating too much cake and the EMTs would give you insulin to rescue you. Yes, you would get charged for this (ultimately). And, FYI, if you were an addict in respiratory arrest from an overdose, and the EMTs came to rescue you, you would get charged for every dose of Narcan they put in you. So take several seats on this argument, please.
Third, the very argument that dope addicts (et. al.) are deserving of a death sentence because you have to pay for your insulin is ludicrous and demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of what is going on with the addict.
Since most people who believe this sort of horse hockey don’t believe that addiction is a “disease,” I’ll lay it out for you this way.
Diabetes is commonly considered a “disease.” I think we can all agree on that.
There are two main types of diabetes. Type-1 (“Juvenile Diabetes”), which is when your pancreas doesn’t create insulin; and Type-2 which is when the cells in your body no longer respond to the insulin your pancreas makes. I’m not going to get into the pathophysiology of it. Look it up.
Around 90-95% of diabetes sufferers in this country have the Type-2 variety (source). Type-2 diabetes (Diabetes Mellitus) can arise from a few sources, but most commonly has one cause: lifestyle. Period. Most eat too much, get fat, and get diabetes.
Type-2 is also the ONLY type of diabetes that is correctable through dietary changes and exercise.
Most people who have Diabetes Type 2 manage their disease with pills. If you diet along with it and get some exercise, lose the weight you need to lose, and help correct your metabolic disorder, you can get off the pills FOREVER.
But in those hardcore, what we in the scientific community call “refractory,” cases — where they refuse to take their meds or refuse to change their eating habits and start exercising — they end up insulin dependent (often along with pills).
Now, would you deny these people their insulin if it were free? They ARE, after all, refusing to change. They have a deep, constant hunger and craving for sweets. They give in because it’s too hard to overcome. Exercise is really difficult if you’re overweight. It hurts — sometimes a lot. If you’re severely overweight, just walking across the room can put you out of breath.
So would you deny them their insulin because they’re lazy and unmotivated to change?
Similarly, let’s talk about people with high blood pressure. Again, almost exclusively the cause is lifestyle. Not always, but mostly, your typical high blood pressure patient is overweight, stressed out, and sedentary with a high carbohydrate (and high processed foods) diet. Sometimes they drink or smoke. The doctor will tell them they need to adopt a healthy lifestyle — lose weight and start exercising more — in order to get their blood pressure under control, but they don’t do it. Hey, we’re all busy, right? So after a while, the HBP patients have to go on blood pressure medications. Which makes them loagy. Tired. If they’re on a diuretic, they pee a lot. It’s uncomfortable.
So they stop. Blood pressure stays high. After several years, they develop heart failure or some other form of cardiovascular disease. They come into the ER with severe edema (swollen ankles, for instance) and crackles in their lungs from all the fluid backed up.
Would you deny them treatment because their “Chosen Lifestyle” made them get sick?
They’re lazy and unmotivated to change. Why can’t they just take their meds, stop eating, start exercising, and stop being such a drain on society? Hmmm. Where have I heard that argument before?
That’s right. Addicts.
So let’s talk about addiction as it relates. Addiction starts with a choice, sure. But once the biochemical changes take over, it becomes a disease — like every other lifestyle-related disease.
All of these are diseases of lifestyle. We are human beings with complicated emotions and interactions with the world. Nobody is perfect. Is it fair that insulin costs have skyrocketed? No.
Addicts are entitled to treatment just like diabetics and people with any other disease.
One last thing.
Many of us have seen stereotypical hardcore addicts. I quite recently saw a woman at a gas station who was OBVIOUSLY struggling with a meth problem. She was covered in scabs (and I do mean COVERED). She was jittery, twitching. She was gaunt and unkempt. Dirty. She smelled horrible. My intial reaction was not compassion. Oh no. I was repulsed. Angry. Worried that she might hurt me. I wanted to pay for my stuff and get away from her as quickly as possible.
Same reaction this woman probably gets from most people.
I have also recently seen a 400-pound diabetic, riding his scooter at Walmart, picking up his insulin at the pharmacy counter. While I wasn’t quite as quick to feel that wave of judgement, I was indeed repulsed. His clothes were too tight, his fat rolls were exposed for all to see. This was my knee-jerk reaction.
Same reaction this person probably gets from most people.
The point of this is, I recognized that I felt that way. I knew I should feel compassion for them both. I made myself see them as human beings with problems because I know they are! I know the struggle. While I’ve never been 400 pounds, I am myself severely overweight. And while I’ve never been a methed-out tweaker, I was once addicted to drugs and equally down on my luck.
Would you want someone thinking that about you? Or your daughter? Or your mom?
Nobody is perfect. ANY of us can be in this position. Anybody. Learn compassion.
Doesn’t matter how “together” you have it. It could happen to you too. We are all, due to our biological nature, capable of becoming addicts. Every single one of us. Anything we take into our bodies that effects the neurotransmitters — under the right circumstances — is possibly an addictive substance. That’s just biology.
We can gain weight. We can get high blood pressure. We can get diabetes. All under the right conditions.
So the next time you see this stupid meme, remember that the problem here isn’t that we are giving Narcan to dope addicts. Or that Diabetics are paying $750 for insulin. The problem is, we are flawed human beings who need help. Some of us more than others.
If people hadn’t been kind to me while I was recovering from my addiction, I would have NEVER made it. Seriously. I have a lot of people to thank. People who knew me “in the before times” who believed in the person they knew was underneath the problems. They supported me and guided me. They didn’t approve of my addiction, but they helped me get better. That’s the key.
Some drove me to doctor’s appointments. Some listened when I was bummed. Some bought me healthy food and groceries when I had none. Some took me to the pharmacy so I could pick up my medications. Without these helping hands, I wouldn’t be here.
I really wouldn’t.
Their kindness is why I am here. Why I fight. Why I’m in school becoming a nurse — to pay back some of the kindnesses that were extended to me when I felt I didn’t deserve it (and when the judgemental people of the world agreed with me.)
Judgemental people of the world: bite me.
Remember that simply being decent is sometimes the best a total stranger can do. So … do it!
What’s your problem?
“Human kindness has never weakened the stamina nor softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt