Narcan is a wonder drug: It reverses drug overdoses so quickly that it’s called the Lazarus Drug (in John 11, Jesus brought a man called Lazarus back from the dead).

But some people worry that it ends up doing as much harm as good. This is the “moral hazard” argument which says that when risks are reduced, people act in riskier ways because they feel less danger, which can undo the safety advantage of the risk reduction. The classic example is that wearing seat belts is correlated with more reckless driving, which means more pedestrian deaths.

A paper last spring argued that in some states the passage of laws increase access to Narcan was correlated with an increase in opioid overdose deaths – a conclusion that was pretty controversial.

I don’t think people use this to say that Narcan should be withheld and drug users should be allowed to die, but it does confirm, if confirmation is needed, that human behavior is messy and convoluted.

I learned about this debate from the Hidden Brain show/podcast from NPR: You can listen to it here.



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