Currently, when friends are using illegal drugs together and one overdoses, others may be hesitant to call 911 or take them to a hospital for fear of being charged with drug crimes. Good Samaritan laws essentially offer limited criminal immunity to those who seek help for overdose victims.
The war against fatal overdose is also being fought on another front as well. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration approved prescription use of a drug that was previously only available in hospitals. The drug naloxone, if administered in time, can reverse the effects of an opioid drug overdose and save the user’s life. Opioids include street drugs like heroin but also prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Percocet.
Each year in the United States, opioid overdoses are responsible for 500,000 visits to the emergency room and 16,000 deaths. In making naloxone available by prescription and packaging it in the form of a “rescue pen,” the FDA and other safety advocates hope to significantly reduce the number of preventable fatalities.
It should be noted that the rescue pen, which will commercially be called “Evzio,” does not replace emergency medical care. Overdose victims still need to be carefully monitored by medical professionals, and there are risks associated with the use of Evzio. Instead, the drug is meant to be administered as an emergency first response when available.
The approval of this drug and passage of Good Samaritan laws are both recognitions of the fact that the current approach to the war on drugs isn’t working and is, in fact, costing lives. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that drug crimes are no longer prosecuted. If you find yourself facing criminal charges for crimes related to drug use or sales, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "A 'rescue pen' for opioid overdose gets FDA's blessing," Melissa Healy, April 3, 2014