Fatal drug overdose is a nationwide epidemic that claims the lives of over 36,000 Americans every year. The situation is particularly acute in North Carolina, where overdose deaths have increased more than 300 percent in just over a decade, from 297 in 1999 to 1,140 in 2011. This increase is mostly driven by prescription opioids such as oxycontin and hydrocodone, which now account for more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. Opioid overdose is typically reversible through the timely administration of naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of opioids, and the provision of other emergency care. However, access to naloxone and other emergency treatment is often limited by laws that make it difficult for those likely to be in a position to reverse an overdose to access the drug and discourage overdose witnesses from calling for help. In an attempt to reverse this unprecedented increase in preventable overdose deaths, a number of states have recently amended those laws to increase access to emergency care and treatment for opiate overdose.
In 2013, North Carolina joined their ranks. Senate Bill 20, "Good Samaritan Law/Naloxone Access," was passed by overwhelming majorities in the state House and Senate and was signed by the Governor on April 9, 2013.This Fact Sheet examines specific aspects covered by the law.