Drug overdose is a nationwide epidemic that claims the lives of over 43,000 Americans every year. Texas is not immune to its effects. Over six hundred Texans were confirmed to have been killed by opioids in 2013, but recent reports suggest that this is a vast undercount, with nearly 800 prescription-drug related deaths reported by medical examiners in just 17 of the state’s 254 counties. Over 1,200 people died of accidental overdoses between 2006 and 2010 in Harris County alone.
Naloxone, a medication that blocks the effects of opioids like oxycodone and heroin, can reverse opioid overdose in most cases if it is given in time. However, existing medical practice laws typically permit prescribers to prescribe naloxone only to their own patients, and not to the friends, family members, and other people who are may be in a position to use it to save a life. Existing law can also discourage those witnessing an overdose from calling 911 to report the emergency. Additionally, many of the first responders dispatched to assist overdose victims typically do not carry naloxone and are not trained in its use. The majority of states have now amended their laws to address these problems and increase access to this life-saving medication.
In 2015, Texas joined these states with the enactment of Senate Bill 1462, which contains a number of provisions designed to make it more likely that naloxone will be available when and where it is needed. The law, which passed unanimously, was signed by the Governor on June 18, 2015 and goes into effect on September 1, 2015. The law expands access to naloxone in several ways.