Every time a shot of naloxone hydrochloride is used to reverse the effects of an opiate overdose, it saves a life.

There’s a lot of uneasiness regarding the medication’s role in Maine’s response to the ongoing heroin crisis, but that simple fact cannot and should not be ignored. Addiction is a disease, and while naloxone is not a cure, it can stave off the disease’s worst and most final symptom – death – until the stars align, and treatment can take hold.

In the last few years, as heroin use has skyrocketed in Maine, the Legislature has acted to increase the availability of naloxone, also known by its trade name Narcan, first to first responders, and then to family members of people addicted to opiates.

For the same reasons, lawmakers should pass L.D. 1547 and allow naloxone to be sold over the counter, putting it in the hands of more people likely to suffer an overdose and helping put a hold on the rise in tragic deaths.

Naloxone, usually delivered by nasal spray, works by blocking opiate receptors in the brain, preventing the user from getting high, and reversing the breath-suppressing effects of the opiate.

Under the bill, Maine would join the roughly 30 states that already allow naloxone to be sold over the counter. It would require that pharmacists are trained on the correct way to administer the drug, and that they pass that information on to anyone receiving it.

There is no danger to having naloxone in the hands of people who are not medical professionals. It is nontoxic and has no potential for abuse or long-lasting side effects, even if given mistakenly to someone not experiencing an overdose.

There’s also no proof that the presence of naloxone prevents people from seeking treatment, and in any case, we do not withhold chemotherapy from lifelong smokers, or heart surgery from people with diets heavy on red meat.

Naloxone saves lives, and it’s as simple as that.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, naloxone administered by a family member or friend revived more than 26,000 people between 1996 and 2014.

And while there are no hard statistics for its use in Maine, the Portland Fire Department reported using naloxone more than 90 times in the first six months of 2014. In that same time, Biddeford administered naloxone 60 times.

The police chief in York, when testifying in favor of L.D. 1547 on behalf of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, called naloxone a “wonder drug,” and said it was used to reverse four overdoses in his town last year.

Each of those cases gave someone an opportunity to confront their disease and find a way out of their addiction. In a state where heroin is cheap and readily available and treatment options are scarce, and with a disease that requires persistence and luck to overcome, naloxone buys valuable time.

That’s not enough. Mainers saved by naloxone need access to proven treatment, and the state needs additional policies that address education and prescription management so that more people do not become addicted.

But there is no doubt there are people in Maine who are alive today because of naloxone, and there is no question more lives will be saved if it is made more readily available.