Horizon Blog

Prevent Overdose: The 911 Good Samaritan Law – What is it?

January 27th, 2014

goodsamaritinlawHave you ever heard of the 911 Good Samaritan Law? Basically, it gives protection to people who call 911 in support of a person suffering from an overdose or other drug-related problem.

Why is it necessary?

People who witness someone else having a heart attack probably wouldn’t think twice about calling 911, but witnesses to a drug overdose often hesitate to call for help—for fear of police involvement or of being arrested themselves.

The problem is, multiple studies show that most overdose deaths actually occur one to three hours after the victim initially ingested or injected the drugs. Within that time, there is a chance to prevent an overdose from becoming a fatality.

Statistics show that overdoses nationwide nearly tripled between 1999 and 2009.  In 2009, more than 30,000 people died from accidental drug overdose, resulting in more deaths than either HIV/AIDS or homicide.

Why should you care?

Perhaps you’re thinking that overdoses only happen to hardcore junkies—heroin, cocaine or bath salts abusers.

But here’s a new fact:  Across the country, an increasing number of overdose deaths are caused by prescription drugs—more than all illegal drugs combined. Legal prescription opiates, such as Oxycontin and Vicodin, are driving the increase in overdose deaths.  And since 2002, prescription opiate overdose deaths have outnumbered both heroin and cocaine overdose deaths.

Who are the victims?

More middle-aged Americans between the ages 35 to 54 died of prescription drug overdose than in motor-vehicle accidents. And drug overdose is the number two injury-related killer among young adults ages 15-34.

  • One in four teens (24 percent) reports having misused or abused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime), which translates to about 5 million teens. That is a 33 percent increase over a five-year period.
  • Almost one in four teens (23 percent) say their parents don’t care as much if they are caught using Rx drugs without a doctor’s prescription, compared to getting caught with illegal drugs.
  • Of those kids who said they abused Rx medications, one in five (20 percent) has done so before age 14.
  • More than a quarter of teens (27 percent) mistakenly believe that misusing and abusing prescription drugs is safer than using street drugs.

It’s no wonder that 911 Good Samaritan policies are in effect on more than 90 U.S. college campuses.  And they’ve become law in every state since 2008.

Good Samaritan immunity laws provide protection from prosecution for witnesses who call 911. They don’t protect people from arrest for other offenses, such as selling or trafficking drugs, but they do prioritize saving lives over arrests for possession.

If you’d like to learn more about 911 Good Samaritan laws, you can contact the team at Horizon Health Services, where we are committed to helping people and their families through the recovery process.  Just call 716.831.1800.

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