Joining Together to Prevent Drug Overdose Fatalities
It seems almost every day we hear about another tragic drug overdose, whether it is a prominent actor like Philip Seymour Hoffman, or a local teenager. But fatal overdoses are not limited to drug addicts. There are elderly people who mix up their medications or cancer patients in extreme pain or wounded veterans or workers disabled in an accident. This is an issue that touches everyone in some way. And we can take action to prevent more of these needless deaths.
Georgia is among several states considering a Medical Amnesty/9-1-1 Good Samaritan Bill (House Bill 965). The Medical Amnesty Bill protects people seeking medical assistance at the scene of drug or alcohol overdose from criminal prosecution for drug or paraphernalia possession (this would NOT include drug trafficking or distribution or other crimes which may have been committed). Calling 9-1-1 for an overdose patient should never be a crime!
But that is only one means of addressing the problem. What about people who are not breaking any law, but still at a very high risk of a fatal overdose? These are the cancer patients, the wounded veterans and people with serious chronic pain, who count on legal prescription narcotics to get them through the day.
A second bill in the Georgia Legislature (HB 966) provides for easier accessibility to naloxone, the antidote for opioid overdoses. It’s important to realize that the majority of fatal overdoses involve prescription medications, and most are accidental. Doctors in Georgia should have the same legal rights that doctors in 17 other states which have already passed these laws already have…the right to prescribe naloxone to anyone who knows a person at risk for opioid overdose: a cancer patient’s caregivers, parents of a teen making poor choices, spouses of veterans suffering war wounds who take pain pills, family members of an elderly adult on pain medication.
Doctors and pharmacists could also legally provide naloxone to police officers and sheriff departments, giving them a life-saving tool which the officers could use as they await the arrival of ambulances at overdose scenes. The CDC estimates that 10,000 overdoses have already been reversed with similar laws already passed in other states.
The time for legislative action is now. To learn more, visit the www.georgiaoverdoseprevention.org or visit their Facebook page, Georgia 911 Good Samaritan Law.