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HuffPost: GOP Candidate In New Hampshire Claimed Narcan Keeps People Addicted

HuffPost: GOP Candidate In New Hampshire Claimed Narcan Keeps People Addicted By Kevin Robillard Don Bolduc, the Donald Trump-aligned retired Army brigadier general who is the Republican nominee for Senate in New Hampshire, has claimed that administering the lifesaving opioid treatment naloxone to overdose victims “keeps them addicted” and leads to people getting “thrown into the welfare system,” according to audio newly obtained by HuffPost. Naloxone, commonly referred to by the brand name Narcan, is used to stop the symptoms of an opioid overdose, either through a nasal spray or muscle injection. The drug counters the slowed-down breathing that often leads to death. Available over the counter, it’s frequently carried by police officers and paramedics and has been credited with reducing overdose deaths as the opioid crisis rages on throughout the country. Bolduc’s comments enraged recovery advocates in the state, who said the candidate is helping uphold the stigma around addiction. “It’s barbaric,” said John Burns, a recovering addict who runs the nonprofit SOS Recovery and once served on a council advising New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) on addiction issues. “It just shows me he has very little understanding of addiction, treatment and recovery.” New Hampshire, where Bolduc is challenging Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, was once considered ground zero for the opioid crisis. It had the nation’s second-highest overdose death rate in 2015. But even as the coronavirus pandemic and the widespread availability of fentanyl ― a synthetic opioid far more powerful than Oxycontin or heroin ― drove national overdose deaths to a record 107,000 from December 2020 to December 2021, the Granite State has managed to keep opioid deaths down. It had the nation’s 22nd-highest overdose death rate in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control. A key reason is the widespread availability of Narcan. Public officials in the state, including Sununu, have encouraged people to keep the treatment handy and be prepared to intervene. “The extent to which Narcan has been available in New Hampshire has absolutely influenced our overdose death rate,” said Tym Rourke, the senior director at Third Horizon Strategies, a health care consulting firm, and a former chair of a state panel on substance abuse. “New Hampshire was one of the only states in the U.S. without an increase in annual overdose deaths in 2020, and we’ve seen some slight declines. Availability of naloxone is absolutely a part of that.” In audio obtained by HuffPost, however, Bolduc twice expressed skepticism of Narcan and of public health interventions more broadly. During a meeting with Republicans in the town of Hollis in July, Bolduc downplayed a 5.1% decrease in overdose deaths ― an apparent reference to a national decline from 2017 to 2018 that has since been reversed. (His comments start at about 1:09:57 in this recording.) “It’s not success, because what it’s directly related to is the use of Narcan by our first responders who save people, and others in the community that have the Narcan that are able to bring them back to life,” he said, later adding: “Giving someone drugs who’s already on drugs ... keeps them addicted on a legal drug and then they can’t work, so they get thrown into the welfare system and it makes that more expensive. And so it’s a cycle and a generation of welfare that we keep dealing with, and we have to stop that.” And during a campaign stop in Windham in September, shortly before he defeated the establishment-aligned Chuck Morse in the GOP primary, Bolduc questioned the importance of money going to harm reduction programs, and said that “not everybody wants to recover” from addiction. (His comments occur at about the 23:37 mark in this video.) “I give [New Hampshire Democratic Sen.] Jeanne Shaheen credit for getting this state $69 million for opioid crisis, but it’s going to harm reduction. Methadone and Suboxone. Needle exchange, syringe exchange. And we’re not curing the problem. We need prevention,” Bolduc said. “You’re not gonna be able to solve the problem by giving people drugs ― another drug to keep them off a drug,” he added. “It doesn’t work. We need prevention. We all ― we need treatment and we need services that, you know, help people in recovery. But then we have to realize that not everybody wants to recover and not everybody will recover. And I’m sorry, and that might sound cold, but that’s a fact. And it’s unfortunate.” Burns, who advocates for a public health-centered approach to the opioid epidemic rather than one built around law enforcement, compared Bolduc’s skepticism of Narcan to choosing not to give an overweight person CPR if they’re having a heart attack. “It’s like saying that because someone didn’t follow their doctor’s advice on diet and exercise, we shouldn’t intervene to save their lives,” he said. [...]