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Can Good Samaritan Laws To Help Opioid Overdoses?

It has happened more times than necessary.  A group of addicts gets high together and one overdoses. All of the addicts flee the scene in order to avoid prosecution, when a simple phone call to 911 could have saved a life. Fourteen states have Good Samaritan laws providing limited immunity to drug users who call 911 during an overdose. A Wisconsin lawmaker wants his state to have the same.

Wisconsin state Legislator John Nygran almost lost his daughter to an overdose four years ago. The only reason his daughter is alive today is because his wife stopped at their residence to close the windows before a storm hit only to find her daughter had overdosed. If his wife didn't stop home, their daughter would have most likely died even though she had been using drugs with friends at the home.

“When I got there, the friends had all left and she was alone. Addicts tend to be selfish. It’s all about them,” Nygren said. “It’s all about their next high. If someone overdoses, they don’t stick around to help them.”

John Nygran is trying to bring a legislation of four bills he calls the HOPE agenda, or Heroin Opiate Prevention and Education. The 911 Good Samaritan Laws may help curb the increasing amounts of opioid overdoses caused by prescription drugs and heroin. “We in no way think this is a silver bullet to fix the problem, but it’s a step,” Nygren said. “Wisconsin is not alone in this problem.”

He is right about not being alone with the issue. Every day, 105 people die from drug overdoses, according to The Centers Of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and another two million people go to the emergency room for overdoses per year. That is over 6,000 overdose cases per day.

Washington state passed it's Good Samaritan law in 2010, which partially protects drug users who call 911 during an overdose. After drug users were informed of the laws, 88 percent of them said they would be more likely to call 911 to save an overdose victim. A survey performed by a clean needle clinic, 42 percent of opiate users said they had witness an overdose over the last year.

Any steps toward decreasing opiate use and more importantly overdoses is necessary to help stop this epidemic. With people dieing at an alarming rate of opioid abuse, and states not having enough beds in their treatment facilities to help addicts, creating awareness and laws to help curb the issue can be a big benefit to society.  Hopefully more states will follow.


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