Fatal drug overdose is a nationwide epidemic that claims the lives of an increasing number of Americans every year – over 47,000 in 2014. The majority of these deaths are caused by opioids, both prescription painkillers and heroin. The overdose crisis is particularly severe in Kentucky, where nearly 1,077 people died of drug-related overdoses in 2014, up from 1,019 in 2013. Kentucky has the fourth highest age-adjusted drug overdose death rate in the country. Tragically, most of these deaths are preventable. Opioids kill by depressing respiration, and this opioid-induced respiratory depression can typically be reversed if a generic, relatively inexpensive medication called naloxone is administered in time.
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.
This fact sheet provides an overview of the state's laws to increase access to naloxone and provide limited immunity to bystanders who assist in overdose situations.