Sunday, August 31st is Overdose Awareness Day. In recognition of this day we would like to turn our attention to the faces behind the overdose statistics.
You have no doubt heard that in 2011 more Americans died every day from drug overdoses than from traffic crashes. And that half of those overdoses involved opioids, a class of drugs that includes heroin and prescription painkillers.
We would like to take a moment to talk about the people behind these data.
We greatly appreciate the willingness of parents to share their stories of loss with us. It goes without saying that family and friends who have lost a loved one due to overdose are heartbroken. And they are desperate to make sure no one else experiences what they have.
We heard from Liz’s mom. Liz was just 23 years old when her life was cut short due to an overdose. Her mom told us proudly that Liz graduated 10th in her high school class. She had a scholarship to college. And she was addicted to heroin.
We also heard from Joe’s mom. Joe was 29 when he died. She sent us a poem he wrote. The poem included the line, “No one told me getting high was such a low ride.”
And Judy told us about the loss of her son Steve. Steve said of prescription painkillers, “At first they were a lifeline. Now they are a noose around my neck.”
These people are more than statistics. They are our sons, daughters, neighbors, family and friends. They are the reason we work every day to decrease prescription drug abuse, heroin use and overdose deaths.
We are not without hope – and powerful tools to decrease overdose deaths. While prevention and treatment remain key parts of our overall drug strategy, we are also working to expand the availability of naloxone. Naloxone, when administered quickly and properly, is a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose that might otherwise result in death.
An increasing number of states are passing legislation to increase access to naloxone and remove barriers that may keep a bystander (or “Good Samaritans”) from seeking emergency assistance for the overdose victim. The infographic below shows states (and the District of Columbia) with laws allowing for the prescribing and administration of naloxone and/or criminal protections for bystanders who seek emergency assistance.
As of July 15, 2014, 30 states and the District of Columbia enacted legislation to decrease overdose deaths. The infographic provides an at-a-glance view of which states have passed and enacted these laws as of July 15:
If you found this graphic useful, please share it. We encourage you to learn more by downloading an overdose prevention toolkit developed by one of our federal partners.
Below is a summary of salient points in the infographic, with the corresponding colors.
Red: Twenty states (AK, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, IL, LA, MD, MA, MN, NJ, NM, NY, NC, RI, VT, WA, & WI) and the District of Columbia have statutes which prevent charge or prosecution for possession of a controlled substance and/or paraphernalia for persons who seek medical/emergency assistance for someone experiencing an opioid-induced overdose. Additionally, in UT and IN, evidence of providing assistance to someone experiencing an opioid overdose can be presented as a mitigating factor at sentencing to a conviction for possession of a controlled substance and/or paraphernalia. Utah allows evidence of providing assistance to someone experiencing an overdose to be used as an affirmative defense to an allegation of possession of a controlled substance and/or paraphernalia.
Purple: Twenty-one states (CA, CO, CT, GA, IL, KY, ME, MD, MA, MN, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, RI, TN, VT, VA, WA, & WI) and the District of Columbia have statutes which protect lay persons from criminal liability for administering naloxone to someone believed to be experiencing an opioid induced overdose. In Virginia, this protection applies to persons who are participating in the provisional pilot program. Two additional states (LA & MO) provide criminal liability protections to first responders.
Blue: Eighteen states (CA, CO, CT, GA, KY, MN, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OK, OR, RI, TN, UT, VT, VA, & WI) and the District of Columbia have statutes which protect lay persons from civil liability for administering naloxone to someone believed to be experiencing an opioid induced overdose. In Virginia, this protection applies only to persons participating in the provisional pilot program. Two additional states (IN & LA) provide civil liability protections to first responders.
Green: Fourteen states (CA, CO, CT, GA, MN, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, TN, UT, VT, & WI) have statutes which protect prescribers from criminal liability actions.
Orange: Thirteen states (CA, CO, CT, GA, MN, NJ, NM, NC, OH, TN, UT, VT, & WI) have statutes which protect prescribers from civil liability actions.
Yellow: Twenty-one states (CA, CO, DE, GA, IL, ME, MD, MA, MN, NJ, NY, NC, OH, OK, OR, TN, UT, VT, VA, WA, & WI) have statutes which allow for “third-party” prescriptions of naloxone (i.e., the prescription can be written to a friend, relative, or person in a position to assist a person at risk of experiencing an opioid overdose). Virginia allows third-party prescriptions only through a provisional pilot program. Three more states (IN, LA, & MO) allow prescriptions of naloxone to qualified first responders (e.g., law enforcement, EMTs, and firefighters).