It’s known that in a small town, when someone sneezes, everyone else in town instantly knows who it was, but this game of telephone often creates noise in the line. What is simply a normal sneeze that periodically happens will turn into a hot commotion about whether that person is dying, if they’re contagious with some supernatural disease from a country no one can pronounce, or even if they’re trying to fake it for sympathy. People talk, and each iteration of an idea passed around comes with it the biases and projects of the person passing on the information. Eventually the rumors become accepted as somewhat factual and talked about as if there’s any basis for them. This happens in drug addiction talk, too.

Recently, rumors have started sprouting up about ‘narcan’ parties which, even on the face of it, sound ridiculously far fetched but many people who aren’t involved in keeping abreast of the country’s opioid and heroin problem have been spreading the idea around enough that the Cincinnati Enquirer had to write about the falsehoods of it.

The description of the party sounds like it was made up by people who still believe that addiction is a moral failing and involves a bunch of heroin and fentanyl users getting together, bringing their drugs as well as overdose antidote kits and intentionally shoot enough drugs to overdose then have their friends revive them.

Yes, apparently this rumor has gained enough traction that at least one newspaper has reported on it as a plausible scenario. A Nashville-based paper (embarrassing name drop withheld) recently ran the story about narcan parties in Tennessee with a straight face, which prompted a reporter with the Cincinnati Enquirer to investigate the outlandish claims. After speaking to area addiction experts and medical staff who treat overdoses in hospitals, there was a unanimous response to the story being a complete fabrication, sounding more like the plotline to Flatliners than a real thing warranting discussion.

Several interviewed for the debunking of the Tennessee paper’s faux pas including Newtown Police Chief Tom Synan and Amy Parker, a peer support recovery specialist, all expressed concerns at the veracity of the story in the face of the evidence of how both addiction works and how specifically heroin and drugs like naloxone work to revive a person after an overdose.

“First of all, heroin and fentanyl are not party drugs. If you’re addicted, you are literally buying the drug to be well and you do it right away”, Chief Synan responded when confronted with the rumor.

“I don’t know anyone who has ever willingly done this. I’ve heard people remark of how stupid it would be. Even the behavior is counter to that of people who have an opioid addiction.” Parker added.

Rumors of this sort for serious illnesses like addiction can cause major damage and create roadblocks to solutions. While people that understand what addiction is find the story laughable, many people aren’t as hip to the mountains of medical evidence that point to the changes in brain chemistry that control behaviors. Many people still think drug addiction is something you do if you’re a terrible person, which is how a story like this pops into existence. With a culture that largely doesn’t understand addiction or heroin or opioids, the story of narcan parties is in fertile ground to be reported as fact in a Tennessee newspaper.

Discovery InstituteAddiction is a serious disease affecting over twenty million Americans. Rehabs in NJ like Discovery Institute (844-478-6563) offer addiction treatment in New Jersey that focuses on the reality of the chronic illness making it one of the top rated drug rehab centers.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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