Philip Seymour Hoffman's Death Contributing to Greater Naloxone Access

By McCarton Ackerman 10/30/14

The actor's death has triggered dozens of states to enact naloxone programs and Good Samaritan laws.

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In the wake of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s drug overdose death last February, numerous states have agreed to expand access to an overdose antidote in the hopes that future tragedies don’t occur.

Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia now have some form of access law for naloxone, a prescription drug administered via needle or nasal inhaler that blocks the brain receptors to which heroin or other opioids bind. That’s up from 18 states last year and just eight in 2012.

Eight states have also passed laws allowing emergency officials and members of the public to more easily administer the drug, while three states have passed Good Samaritan laws that allow those with the victim to call 911 without being prosecuted for a drug crime.

Rhode Island, Washington, and New York have have recently allowed naloxone to be administered to anyone who has authorization from a physician, while California introduced a law last month which will become official in January that doesn’t even require that step to be taken. New York even went one step further and allowed community programs to dispense it without a medical professional on site.

"Unfortunate as it is to say this, that kind of very high profile death does help because it pushes policymakers to look around for things that they can do," said Peter Davidson, a medical sociologist at the University of California, San Diego. "They bump into the work that's being done with naloxone distribution." New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said that between April and June of this year, 40 opiate overdoses were reversed and all of those lives were ultimately saved.

However, the Good Samaritan laws in various states usually have some form of stipulation to them. The person who calls for help is legally required to stay on the scene, and provide both their first and last name to law enforcement officials upon request. The legal immunity also doesn’t apply to the person who administers the drug that leads to an overdose or to anyone at the scene who is dealing drugs.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.