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Charging Overdose Victims with Crime for Needing Naloxone

Charging Overdose Victims with Crime for Needing Naloxone

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

Overdose victims are the people most obviously struggling with the opiate epidemic. So many have come so close to death that to be revived might be the only second chance they think they get. As the overdose outbreak has grown into such a prominent problem, more has been done to increase access to life-saving resources. Policies are now in place help those who are on the verge of a lethal dose. More is being done to help survivors get treatment. The concept of addiction has finally started to be more understand as something that impacts all walks of life and that it is not a moral failing, but a serious, chronic disorder. Yet, even as compassion and education have taken on more meaning in the fight against drug addiction, there are still some who think punishing addicts and overdose victims is somehow an answer.

It is one thing to argue the idea of charging drug dealers with murder in connection to overdoses. Even that is a controversial topic. But now officials in some areas are supporting a plan that further persecutes people who have suffered from an opiate overdose is a very dangerous development.

Should police be issuing charges to overdose victims who need to be revived with naloxone?

What is Naloxone?

Naloxone, also known by its generic name Narcan, is the antidote medication used to reverses an opioid overdose. It works by neutralizing the opioids and reviving the respiratory system. This medication has become one of the primary resources in fighting the overdose outbreak that has devastated the nation, and over recent years access to the drug has expanded a great deal. Naloxone has been around in ambulances and hospitals for decades to reverse overdose, but the demand for solutions to the rising death rates has made it more mainstream.

Naloxone has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and all over the country new programs have been put in place to make the drug more available. Now you can acquire a naloxone kit from pharmacies in many states, some without prescriptions. Community programs have developed to distribute the drug to the public in some areas where the issue is most prevalent.

Many areas have distributed naloxone to their police departments as well as other first responders, while providing training courses to both the public servants and the community. With some many people in America fighting addiction and losing their lives, it makes sense that more people be prepared to help.

Making Overdosing a Crime

In some states people who overdose are facing some new consequences. While government officials say they are trying everything they can to help people, all it really seems to be doing is further inhibiting the people who most desperately need the help.

Essentially, what officials in some areas have done is emphasized on making overdosing a crime. More specifically, charging people who have to be revived by police or medics with naloxone with inducing panic.

The charge is a misdemeanor, so it isn’t exactly as damaging as other charges often associated with drugs. However, the offense is technically still punishable with fines and jail time. Police are partnering with prosecutors to go on the attack against addiction, but is this the right plan of action?

Washington, Ohio Overdose Victims

One area with a policy like this is Washington, Ohio. Police in this part of the Buckeye State just started the new strategy in February. So far at least seven people who were revived during an overdose through naloxone have been charged with inducing panic.

In this area the offense can entitle someone to up to 180 days in jail and a one-thousand dollar fine. The City Attorney Mark Pitsick claims,

“It gives us the ability to keep an eye on them, to offer them assistance and to know who has overdosed. Sometimes we can’t even track who has overdosed.”

What some may find troubling is the vocabulary Pitsick uses to describe the situation. Saying thing like “keep an eye on them” is already a bit unsettling for some. One of the problems with this whole idea is exactly that; no one wants the police to have to “keep an eye on them”, especially addicts. Therefore, one has to wonder if people will avoid contacting emergency services in the event of an overdose.

How many people will suddenly be even more afraid to reach out for help? How many people are going to be too afraid of adding a charge to their name, paying a fine or even going to jail that they take their chances without naloxone and end up dead?

Is it right to use the legal system this way to keep tabs on people who ask for help?

Not All Bad

One thing the city officials do want to adamantly announce is that people who call 9-1-1 to report an overdose, or the people who may be with the overdose victims, will not be charged. This might make the policy a little easier to handle. At least this means the people who are around someone on the edge of dying could act in the individuals best interest without fear of personally being charged. Pitsick defended his stance saying,

“Service. Follow up. Just them understanding that people do care. We are here to help. We are not here to put them in jail,”

Still, the fact overdose victims are likely to receive charges may deter someone from calling for help for them, no matter how illogical to some that may seem. It is a sad truth that actually happens quite often already. People have allowed others to overdose and even die out of fear of legal repercussions. Would creating a standard of charging people for needing medical resuscitation make it better, or worse? The reality is it will not prevent addicts from using.

While the intention may be good, to try and take a stance against overdose rates, the strategy may be counterproductive. Personally, my opinion is this only pushes people away from wanting help. It inspires fear and feelings of guilt, not hope. It promotes stigma and turns people who are already struggling against the system they were hoping would help them.

Overdose death is not to be underestimated anymore. People every day lose their life to the fight against addiction. But there is help out there for those who are willing to take action. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Drug Overdose Epidemic Leads To Rise in Organ Donors


Author: Shernide Delva

Fatal drug overdoses are a tragedy for the families of the deceased. Sadly, at least 78 people die from opioid overdoses each day. However, a recent report states the rise in drug overdoses has a grim silver lining. More families are willing to donate a loved one’s organs as a final redemptive act.

As a result, data reveals that between 2000 and 2015, the percentage of organ donors who died from drug overdose deaths increased from 1.1% to 9.34%. The wait for organ donors kills 22 people each day, and these new donations are a sign of relief for those waiting for an organ transplant. Still, many people question the safety of receiving organs from overdose victims. Should those who die from overdoses be allowed to be organ donors?

Those who ask that question are concerned about the safety implications of receiving donations from overdose fatalities.  There is a risk of contracting a disease from a donor, particularly a donor who had usedintravenously. Back in 2014, it was revealed that organ donations had skyrocketed in Ohio due to the state’s heroin epidemic.  In 2013, three percent of Ohio organ donors died of drug overdoses. In 2014, that number skyrocketed to 18%. Although the heroin epidemic in Ohio is tragic, the sudden rise in organ donors saved lives and gave many people a second chance.

Still, it was a learning process to inform the public that receiving organs from these donors was a possibility. A popular myth was that those who overdosed on heroin could not donate because of brain damage.  It certainly is possible; however overdose fatalities do make the process a bit more complicated. While it does make the process more difficult, people who die this way are still able to donate. They are not ineligible.  Matthew Bailey, education and safety administrator for Life Connection, elaborated:

“For a long time, people used to think that organ donors only come from traumatic injuries. Heroin overdoses tend to cause cardiac arrests and damage to the brain through lack of oxygen, and that has changed how we place the organs,” Bailey said. “We’re able to, perhaps, place fewer hearts because they had no blood flow. [They] can still be organ donors. It does make placing their organs with recipients a little bit more difficult from time to time.”

Families of fatal overdoses tend to be more than willing to donate a loved one’s organs. Some see it as closure while others think of it as making the best out of a grim situation.  Helen M. Nelson, senior vice president of organ donation services at New England Organ Bank, explained in an article the reasoning behind this:

“Many of the families we encounter have been going through this addiction for several years. It’s almost as if the families were preparing for this death. Many feel great comfort in knowing that some good has come out of it.”

Despite the generous donations, the risks remain a legitimate concern. In 2007, four people contracted HIV and hepatitis C from donated organs. However, such cases are rare because of advances in medical screening technology. Considering the risk of organ failure and death, most patients are willing to take this risk. They see it as a try-or-die situation and would rather take the minimal risk of contracting a disease from a donor than not live at all.

“When that incidence is dramatically lower than your incidence of dying on the waitlist, most patients will say yes,” Transplant surgeon and medical adviser for the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations, Nikole Neidlinger explained.

The need for organ donors is vital. There are currently more than 77,800 people on the organ donation wait list. Last year, only 9,080 deceased donors provided organs for those on the waitlist. It is obvious that there is a tremendous need for those willing to contribute to the cause. Even President Barack Obama’s Hope Act made it possible for HIV-positive donors to transplant their organs to another positive person.

Overdose victims represent a new category or organ donors and have not replaced common donors who die of strokes, auto accidents or other causes. They push the boundary of an already controversial manner of organ selection.  Many hospitals and transplant recipients are wary, but the need for these organs often bypasses any concern.

Being an organ donor is an incredibly personal decision. Everyone has their beliefs.  Should these higher risk donors be eligible? Regardless of your opinion, the fact that there are so many overdose fatalities highlights how severe the drug problem is becoming. If you are struggling, get help before it is too late. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.


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