Emergency Heroin Overdose Legislation Passes in Ohio

By Zachary Siegel 07/20/15

Families, friends, and drug users now have access to naloxone, a life-saving overdose reversal drug.

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The state of Ohio has been ravaged by deaths related to opiate overdose. In response, Republican Gov. John Kasich signed off on a critical piece of public health legislation that dramatically increases the accessibility of naloxone, a pure antidote to opioid overdose.

Individuals can now purchase the life-saving drug at local pharmacies. The new bill also allows doctors to authorize citizens to distribute naloxone to people with addiction, as well as their friends and family members. If you know someone is using, the state urges you to have a dose of naloxone at the ready for whenever you may need it. You may just save someone’s life, giving them a chance to get better.

Ohio saw a 366% increase in drug overdose deaths from 2000 to 2012. Unintentional drug overdoses caused 1,914 deaths in 2012 alone. This new public health policy comes as an emergency response to the staggering mortality rates seen in Ohio and across the Midwest.

Opioid users increasingly turn to heroin for their fix, which accounts for the majority of overdose deaths in Ohio. Many blame the turn to heroin as the result of Ohio pill mills—unethical clinics where doctors liberally prescribe opiates—being shutdown.

Although prescription opioids remain prominent throughout Ohio, heroin’s wide availability and economic feasibility make it attractive to those who have sustained addiction to opiates.

Despite the tragedy of life lost from opiates, some do oppose increasing accessibility to naloxone. The standard argument is that it prevents people from going to the emergency room, which they say is a necessary wake up call for one who abuses drugs.

State Sen. Cecil Thomas of Cincinnati, who co-sponsored the bill in the Ohio Senate, is well aware of these arguments. "What I say to critics is you're resetting a button, you're resetting a life," Thomas said.

Reps. Robert Sprague of Findlay and Jeff Rezabek of suburban Dayton sponsored the legislation. Many states across America have been similarly affected by the opiate scourge and are passing legislation, increasing naloxone’s availability nationwide.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.