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Revised Laws Concerning Drug Overdose Help to Save Lives

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In the 2014 World Drug Report, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that worldwide there were 183,000 drug related deaths (mostly overdoses) in 2012. Strikingly, they also report that there were 41,340 drug overdose deaths in the United States alone in 2011. Think about that for just a minute and put it in perspective. In the State of Georgia there are 520 towns with fewer than 41,340 residents. Pick just one and imagine its entire population wiped out by drug overdose. Put this way, the numbers are staggering, but many states are revising Good Samaritan laws to help save the lives of those who accidently or otherwise overdose. California Law, for instance, provides limited protections for those at the scene of a suspected drug overdose who seek emergency medical assistance. According to a Drug Policy Alliance press release from 2013, CA AB 472 states that...

"It shall not be a crime for any other person..., who, in good faith, seeks medical assistance for the person experiencing a drug- related overdose, to be under the influence of, or to possess for personal use, a controlled substance, controlled substance analog, or drug paraphernalia, under certain circumstances related to a drug-related overdose that prompted seeking medical assistance if that person does not obstruct medical or law enforcement personnel"

For any law to be effective, people must be aware of it, and trust that it will be enforced. For it to be enforced, law enforcement officers and paramedics must also know that it exists. The problem comes in knowing that many of the people this law, and laws like it in many other states, is designed to protect; and thereby save lives of those who overdose; may not know that it exists and that it is being enforced. Many communities have started public education campaigns to inform the public so that lives of overdose victims can be saved.

Late last year, Wisconsin's Dane County, started a "Don't Run, Call 911" campaign. According to a press release from Safe Communities Madison-Dane County:

'Don't Run Call 911' promotes the Good Samaritan law provisions of Wisconsin's HOPE(Heroin Opiate Prevention & Education) Act championed by State Representative John Nygren, Assembly District 89 (R-Marinette). The law provides immunity from drug possession charges to a person who makes a good faith effort to seek medical assistance for someone else experiencing a drug-related overdose.

Washington, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Illinois have also held campaigns about their revised Good Samaritan laws. While results are difficult to quantify, there is evidence that points to effectiveness. A survey of opioid drug users in Washington found that after being informed of the law, 88 percent of people said they would be more likely, and less afraid, to call 911 in the event of a future overdose.

Provisions in the laws of several states also allow EMS personnel who complete the mandatory training to carry Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, a special narcotic drug that reverses the effects of other narcotic medicines.

Drug overdoses happen everywhere, every day. At the Ready highly recommends that all responders check their state laws for similar provisions. If your state has a similar law, start a public awareness campaign to get the word out and save the lives of those who overdose.

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