Drug overdose claimed the lives of more than 63,000 Americans in 2016. The majority of these deaths, over 42,000, involved opioids such as heroin, prescription painkillers, and, increasingly, illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Indiana is not immune to this national crisis. In 2003, for example, only three Indiana residents died from heroin-related overdose. In 2016, the number was 296. Deaths from prescription painkillers increased by about 500% over the same period. Many of these deaths are preventable with the timely administration of the overdose reversal drug naloxone and the provision of related emergency care.
Unfortunately, in many cases overdose bystanders do not have ready access to naloxone and either do not call for assistance or delay doing so because they are afraid that summoning emergency responders will put them at risk of arrest and prosecution. Because the negative effects of overdose become more severe the longer the person experiencing the overdose remains in respiratory depression, delays in emergency response contribute to preventable injury, up to and including death.
Indiana, like most states, has moved to address these problems by passing legislation that both makes it more likely that overdose witnesses will have naloxone on hand and encourages those witnesses to summon emergency assistance by providing immunity for some drug-related crimes. A separate law allows the fact that an individual called for assistance to be taken into account during sentencing for crimes for which immunity is not provided. This fact sheet examines Indiana's combined naloxone access and overdose Good Samaritan law, and how it differs from those in other states.