We had four guest speakers come to our class to talk with us about the opioid epidemic. EMT Chas Carlson led the discussion and brought with him paramedics Joe Sobol, Craig Hall, and Delaware County police officer Eric Miller.
The discussion of stamps on bags was an interesting discussion topic. Dealers will brand their bags with certain stamps so people know where the bag came from. Some stamps can garner a reputation for being good or bad bags. The discussion question was “If a certain stamp is known to be responsible for a growing number of overdoses, then should a journalist warn people that this stamp is dangerous?” The obvious answer might be yes, but there is a tendency among opioid users to seek out the strongest bags available. If a certain stamp is causing overdoses, it can be assumed that the contents are more powerful than the user anticipated. So, if a journalist releases the name of this stamp, does he or she create more demand for the stamp – helping the dealer more than the buyer?
One way to look at it, from the first responder’s perspective, is that knowing the stamp might help the police track the bags back to their source and get them off the street. But this explanation doesn’t require a journalist to publish a story identifying the bag by its brand when they could instead just inform authorities. Another explanation was that opioid users aren’t reading the paper. That one is hard to untangle and prove one way or the other. The first responders also said that users most likely already know which stamps are the strongest and which ones are a waste of money. This is probably true to a certain extent but again doesn’t make a great case for identifying a stamp in an article. Miller said it might help, in the sense that if you know someone who is using and you tell them to look out for it they might either avoid it or be more cautious with their dose. To me, that is the best argument. It might be better that users are informed about the potency of the product before they seek it out or use it, rather than not know and accidentally overdose. I am not yet convinced one way or the other. It is a very interesting and difficult question with no clear answer.
I enjoyed getting their different perspectives on a variety of issues. Having a diversity of opinion on important matters is necessary, even when I disagree. I love good open-minded discussions and debates. Comprehensive User Engagement Sites, for example, might be a Band-Aid to a larger problem, but I still see no compelling reason why we shouldn’t attempt to stop the bleeding while we find better ways to treat the disease.