What The Heck is 'Just Narc Me' All About?

By Zachary Siegel 04/25/16

Is the act of using a sober friend as a naloxone-carrying wingman for a potential overdose a dangerous new trend or a drug myth?

What The Heck is 'Just Narc Me' All About?
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"Just Narc Me" is the "new trend" among addicts in North Dakota, as reported by Valley News Live. Allegedly, it is what an opiate user on the verge of an overdose would say to a friend to ask for a shot of naloxone, according to U.S. Attorney for North Dakota, Chris Myers. But there is reason to be suspicious of this supposed trend.  

"It's just like asking a rattlesnake to bite you if there's an antidote available," Myers told Valley News. "Kids would go out and party and they would always have a wingman,” someone who isn’t using, but has naloxone at the ready. 

What Myers is portraying may sound sinister, but in practice, it's what experts argue is the safest way to use heroin. Users should make sure they’re never alone and that someone they’re with has naloxone in the event of an overdose. But implicit in his telling of the Just Narc Me phenomenon is that "kids" are going out to "party" with heroin and "dancing on the edge of life and death." Within this statement, though it is not said outright, is the suggestion that increased access to naloxone encourages risky behavior. 

Attempts made by The Fix to verify the story led only to quotes said by Myers, the sole source on which the “frightening” trend is based. None of the “kids” who have allegedly engaged in this trend were ever quoted. So The Fix reached out to users and activists in the field to get their take on the plausibility of the story. 

“Generally speaking, being shot with naloxone is a crappy experience,” Julia Negron, founder of the Suncoast Harm Reduction Project in Florida, told The Fix. “If you are opiate dependent it causes a rapid detox, which is why many get up off a hospital gurney and leave against medical advice.” Citing the rapid painful detox brought on by naloxone, Negron says people dependent on opiates try to avoid the experience at all costs. It’s essentially garlic to the vampire, not blood. 

Chad Sabora distributes naloxone throughout Missouri and is co-founder of the Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery. "I’ve never heard the phrase ‘Just Narc Me’ used in the real world of addiction," he told The Fix, "and to this day, working with hundreds of active addicts as an outreach worker, this is not a real situation that happens."

Naloxone is no stranger to misconception and bad press. For example, Paul LePage, Maine’s Republican governor, recently went on the record saying, “Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose.” LePage made the statement upon vetoing a bill that would have increased naloxone’s accessibility, which outraged advocates.

Myers' crusade against the Just Narc Me trend, in the name of "kids dying," is just another result of the stigma surrounding drug use, says Lieutenant Commander Diane Goldstein (Ret.), a board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “The viewpoint of the U.S. Attorney [Myers] on the use of naloxone by drug users is based on the unscientific stigmatization of substance use and a lack of acceptance of law enforcement’s ethical obligation to reduce drug-related harms, not just breaches of the law,” Goldstein told The Fix

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.