Shame on an Intolerant Firefighter

Lynn R Webster, MD, firefighter, pain, chronic pain

I was flabbergasted to read the comment made on Facebook by the firefighter in Weymouth, Massachuestts who said “we should just let heroin addicts die from overdose rather than give them the rescue antidote, naloxone.”

This would be like saying the obese diabetic should not be treated because they ate too much, or the disease of AIDS should not be treated because it was a self-inflected disease unworthy of treatment.

The stigma associated with addictions is almost as deadly as the disease itself because it is the reason for the firefighter’s intolerance. It’s also why we have punitive laws aimed at people who have a disease.

This firefighter’s belief regarding addicts is inexcusable. Aren’t firefighters supposed to be ready to save everyone in need? Aren’t they supposed to be accepting of everyone in the community, and willing to treat everyone equally?

Naloxone is not the long-term solution to the opioid crisis, but it can save lives now. Meanwhile, we need to focus attention on prevention of addictions. There are drugs that could be developed that would decrease craving and prevent highs from opioids, but Pharma has been reluctant to invest in these areas because they don’t see a market for these drugs.

Critics of Pharma will say they are only interested in profit. I think this is what drives their business decisions and, frankly, that is the way our capitalistic system works.

As a society, we can’t have it both ways. Do we care about people with diseases? If so, then we need to do what is necessary to treat the disease and to develop effective treatments when possible.  Pharma must be given a carrot to help contribute to the cures we desire, but they should not be allowed to gouge. There can be a balance.

With prejudice, there is no balance. It is wrong all of the time. This firefighter has no defense.

Abstinence won’t solve the problem. Alcohol prohibition didn’t prevent people for using alcohol. Drugs will always be used because it is about being human.  So let’s pull together, and recognize that addiction is a disease and that we need to invest in a cure for this horrible disease.


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Copyright 2016, Lynn Webster, MD




  1. Sue Smith on February 8, 2016 at 10:07 am

    Thanks to addicts, patients with legitimate pain medication needs are not helped. You don’t know what it’s like to have chronic, intense pain that destroys your life until you have experienced it. If they want to escape reality so badly, let them.

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