To revive or not to revive: That is the question when it comes to the debate about providing wider access to naloxone. There are only two sides to choose from: One side advocates for less access to naloxone, leading to more deaths by opiate overdose, and the other side advocates for more access to naloxone, leading to more lives saved.

Advocates for wider naloxone availability do not claim that it is a treatment for addiction. They do not say it will end the public health crisis of opiate addiction. They simply claim (and know) that the drug brings people back from the brink of death.

Opponents of wider naloxone availability often say that naloxone encourages addicts to use drugs more freely. They say that addicts are empowered to make riskier decisions about their drug intake when naloxone is within reach (although there is no evidence to support their claims). They want less naloxone in the hands of the public, which means, by default, they don’t care if addicts die.

The position of those who advocate for naloxone is, in large part, a utilitarian one: Keep as many people living and breathing as possible. It’s a sentiment echoed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Food and Drug Administration and countless substance-abuse treatment professionals.

The position of naloxone opponents is, in large part, based on a moral judgment. They say if people didn’t make the choice to use drugs, they wouldn’t need to be revived. They often pit other life-saving drugs against the opiate antidote, saying if insulin and epinephrine aren’t sold over the counter, why should naloxone be available?

But at the end of the day, the choice is simple: You either want to have more access to a life-saving drug or you don’t care if people die. Let’s not kid ourselves.

Teddy Burrage

Portland