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Syringe Laws and the Overdose Medication Naloxone

posted on Wed, Aug 2 2017 11:20 am by The Network

A public health professional from Texas recently reached out to the Network with two questions about syringe laws and naloxone in that state. Naloxone is a drug that can reverse opioid overdoes if given in time.

Is it legal for laypersons to distribute injection equipment for the purpose of administering naloxone despite the prohibition on syringe service programs?

Yes. No prescription is required for syringe possession or distribution in Texas, there is no statute explicitly regulating distribution of syringes, and there is no prohibition on adult possession of syringes.

There is no explicit prohibition on syringe service programs; the inability of such programs to operate is a function of state law that prohibits the possession or distribution of drug paraphernalia. But drug paraphernalia is defined as “equipment, a product, or material that is used or intended for use in planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packaging, repackaging, storing, containing, or concealing a controlled substance...” Naloxone, however, is not a controlled substance in Texas or at the federal level, so syringes that are possessed with the intention of injecting naloxone are not drug paraphernalia and that prohibition is not applicable.

Do pharmacists have liability risk for selling injection equipment if they know/suspect the person will use it to inject drugs?

No action is completely without some liability risk. However, there are a number of reasons to think that such an action is very unlikely to succeed, and the Network is not aware of any instance of any pharmacist ever being held civilly liable for selling injection equipment to a person they know/suspect will use it to inject controlled substances. Further reducing any potential risk, naloxone is not a controlled substance, as noted above. The general legal principles in this article relating to liability for naloxone prescription apply to syringe delivery as well.

Network attorneys are available to answer questions on this and other public health topics at no cost to you, and can assist you in using law to advance your public health initiatives. Contact a Network Attorney in your area for more information.

The legal information and assistance provided in this document does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, readers should consult a lawyer in their state.