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Bill: Allow wide use of emergency drug for overdose victims

Published March 3, 2014 6:12 pm

Medication • Proponents say drug could save lives before paramedics arrive.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A bill that passed Senate committee Monday would allow Naloxone — a medication that counters the effects of opiate overdoses — to be prescribed to a third party who is in a position to administer the drug to overdose victims. The drug is typically only available in emergency rooms. According to the CDC, it has saved 10,000 overdose victims.

Sponsoring Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, said administering Naloxone quickly is key and by the time an ambulance arrives, it may be too late. HB119 would allow a family member, friend, roommate or bystander to have the drug on hand and administer it with immunity.

Last year, 502 Utahns died of drug overdose. Over half of them were from prescription drugs, most of which were accidental, according to Moss.

Pharmacist Chris Stock said non-scientific surveys have shown in states where Naloxone is more available, drug use has decreased.

Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, opposed the bill and said he thinks the bill would increase drug use in the state.

"This is a perfect example of having the ambulance waiting at the bottom of the cliff," he said.

But family members of overdose victims see the bill as a second chance for their loved ones.

When Dustin Haws overdosed on heroin in 2012, one of his companions tried to revive him, but to no avail. His brother, Mike Haws, said if the law had made Naloxone available, there's a good chance Dustin, who would be 22 this year, would still be alive today.

Haws, who currently works at a substance-abuse facility, said his brother had been sober for several months, but that one hit after months of sobriety are often more deadly than not.

Supporters of HB119 say that is why providing Naloxone to people can be a tool for intervention for drug users. If an overdose death is prevented, drug users have an opportunity to seek medical attention for addiction. "If someone has a near death experience, that's what gets them into treatment," Moss said.

Mary Jo McMillen, who provides support for recovering drug addicts, said the bill is welcomed by families of recovering addicts who are "always on pins and needles." Families will be reassured if they have access to Naloxone because it could save the life of their family members, she said.

One recovering addict McMillen worked with died of a drug overdose in his parents' home. Although he hadn't used drugs in 150 days, after he wrecked his car and his relationship ended, he relapsed and his parents found him dead in his bedroom. McMillen said cases like this can be avoided if Naloxone is on hand and can even be a tool for intervention.

Moss said she is pushing this bill because of a college student who approached her about several of his friends who could have been saved, but died of drug overdoses.

The bill comes as a companion to Moss's earlier bill, HB11, which grants immunity for reporting drug overdoses. HB11 passed both houses earlier in the session and is on the way to the governor for signature.

amcdonald@sltrib.com

Twitter: @amymcdonald89

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