Fatal drug overdose is a nationwide epidemic that claimed the lives of over 47,000 Americans in 2014. The overdose crisis is particularly severe in Alaska, where the number of drug overdose deaths increased 16.7 percent from 105 in 2013 to 124 in 2014. The age-adjusted overdose death rates in Alaska are higher than the national rate. Opioid overdose can be treated by administering naloxone, a medication that reverses the effects of opioids. However, access to naloxone and other emergency treatment has historically been 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 the unprecedented increase in preventable overdose deaths, the majority of states have amended those laws to increase access to emergency care and treatment for overdose victims, including the administration of naloxone.
In 2016, Alaska joined their ranks by passing legislation to increase access to naloxone. Senate Bill 23 was passed by overwhelming majorities in the state House and Senate and was signed by the Governor on March 16, 2016. The law went into effect immediately. Alaska also enacted a Good Samaritan law in 2014. This fact sheet provides an overview of these laws.