Believe it or not but drug overdoses are the No. 1 accidental killer of Americans between the ages of 25 and 64. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 38,329 people in the U.S. died as a result of drug overdoses in 2010 alone.
Many of the overdose deaths could have been prevented if people who were with the overdose victims had called for help. But that often doesn’t happen because individuals are worried about facing drug charges.
For that reason, many states have passed “Good Samaritan” laws that absolve other drug users of liability if they call 911 to report an overdose.
The laws vary from state to state, but for the most part they excuse people who call for help from facing charges for possession of small amounts of drugs or paraphernalia. They do not pardon individuals from more serious offenses such as drug trafficking.
Well over a dozen states have also passed laws that make the medication naloxone more readily available. Naloxone, also known as Nacan, can save the life of a person who has overdosed on opioids such as heroin by restoring breathing.
Minnesota currently does not have a Good Samaritan law or a naloxone law on the books, but a state lawmaker who lost her daughter to a heroin overdose in 2007 is trying to change that.
The lawmaker said she plans to introduce a bill this legislative session that would provide legal immunity to people who call for help after overdoses as well as provide more first responders with naloxone. Many doctors and health advocates are also pushing for the legislation.
The issue has been gaining attention in recent months after it was reported that heroin is on the rise in Hennepin County and surrounding areas. In 2013, 56 people in Hennepin County died as a result of heroin overdoses, which is the highest number on record.
According to a Drug Enforcement Agency spokesman, many people with prescription drug problems have turned to heroin “as a cheaper, more available alternative.”
Source: USA TODAY, “States combat alarming drug overdose deaths,” Michael Ollove, Feb. 20, 2014; Bring Me The News, “Roundtable focuses on heroin problem that could touch ‘anybody’s child’,” Kevyn Burger, Feb. 17, 2014; MPR News, “Coalition seeks ‘Good Samaritan’ law to prevent overdose deaths,” Conrad Wilson, Aug. 8, 2013