Legal Interventions to Reduce Overdose Mortality: Naloxone Access and Overdose Good Samaritan Laws

Drug overdose is a nationwide epidemic that claims the lives of over 52,000 Americans every year. Opioids, both prescription painkillers and illegal drugs such as heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, are responsible for most of these deaths – over 33,000 in 2015 alone. Opioids also cause hundreds of thousands of non-fatal overdoses and an incalculable amount of emotional suffering and preventable health care expenses each year.

Many of these negative outcomes are preventable. Opioid overdose is reversible through the timely administration of the medication naloxone and, where needed, the provision of other emergency care.  However, community access to naloxone was historically limited by laws and regulations that pre-date the overdose epidemic. In an attempt to reverse the unprecedented increase in preventable overdose deaths, all fifty states and the District of Columbia have now modified their laws to increase access to naloxone, the standard first-line treatment for opioid overdose. 

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Substance Use

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U.S. Opioid Epidemic