Friday, February 7, 2014

Doctor Sends Economist To ER With Heart Attack!

In this Op-Ed in the New York Times, Robert Hoffman of NYU's Langone Center writes in support of easy access to Naloxone, the antidote to heroin overdose. I'm inclined to agree with him, but his argument relies not on data, but on reductio ad absurdum, and the something isn't absurd.

Specifically, he writes:
Some people might argue that the widespread distribution of a safe, effective and inexpensive antidote might actually encourage drug use. But that’s like suggesting that air bags and seatbelts encourage unsafe driving. Naloxone is a public-health method of intervening when a life is in the balance. Its distribution is endorsed by the American Medical Association. (emphasis added.)
But, as ANY economist will tell you Sam Peltzman is famous for the way he dresses and demonstrating that seatbelts encourage unsafe behavior!!  As I too often want safe cab drivers in New York City?  Replace the driver's airbag with an ice pick.

 I can almost guarantee Naloxone availability will lead to more heroine overdoses, but that's no longer fatal, so who cares?  Will Naloxone lead to more heroine use? Two issues here:

Will a current heroin user consume more?  Probably...the price of over-consumption drops dramatically from "death" to "nasal spray". But, that's the point! Hoffman wants to protect those consumers of heroin from accidental death.

Will non-heroin users become users? I have not used heroin.  I cannot say my risk of death from overdose has ever crossed my mind.  Is that risk what stops you from using heroin?