Drug overdose is a nationwide epidemic that claims the lives of over 43,000 Americans every year. Utah ranks fifth in the nation in per capita drug overdose deaths, and more than 500 Utahns were killed by drug overdose in 2012. Three-quarters (75 percent) of these deaths involved opioids, and 268 were due to prescription opioids such as OxyContin and hydrocodone. The majority of these deaths were preventable.
Opioid overdose can be reversed through the timely administration of naloxone, a medication that blocks the effects of opioids in the brain, and the provision of other emergency care as necessary. However, some current laws limit access to naloxone by making it difficult for those likely to be in a position to aid an overdose victim to access the medication. Existing law can also discourage those witnessing an overdose from calling for help. As one step toward reducing the unprecedented increase in preventable overdose deaths in the United States, the majority of states have amended their laws to increase access to this life-saving medication.
In 2014, Utah passed a law aimed at increasing emergency medical care for overdose victims by providing limited protection from certain controlled substance offenses to a person who seeks medical assistance in good faith for an individual experiencing a drug-related overdose. The same protections apply to the victim. Later that same year, Utah passed a separate law designed to increase access to naloxone in the community. The law expands access to naloxone in several ways. First, it permits certain medical professionals to prescribe and dispense naloxone to an individual at risk of opioid overdose, or to a family member, friend, or other person who may be in a position to assist such a person. It also permits those people to administer naloxone. Finally, the law provides for various types of immunity for those who engage in the activities authorized by the law.
This fact sheet provides further details about these laws.