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Bill increasing availability of overdose antidote advances

When it comes to the issue of illegal narcotics, the unfortunate reality is that state lawmakers have historically been more concerned with punishment than with alternatives to punishment. This is unfortunate given that a great number of people facing drug crime charges would likely have benefited more from treatment and supervised probation than they would from spending time behind bars.

Fortunately, it appears as if this paradigm is perhaps starting to shift, meaning state lawmakers are perhaps finally starting to recognize that public health considerations also play a significant role in combating illegal narcotics.

Consider Senate Bill 758 -- otherwise known as the "Florida Opioid Overdose Prevention Act -- which is designed to help rather than punish those struggling with drug addiction and which recently made it out of its first committee hearing.

Sponsored by Senator Greg Evers (R-Crestview), SB 758 would essentially expand the ability of physicians to write prescriptions for naloxone from at-risk patients to family caregivers and friends.

For those unfamiliar with naloxone, which is sold under the brand name Narcan, it is a fast-acting overdose antidote that has a proven track record of saving the lives of those who have ingested an otherwise deadly amount of opioids, including heroin and Oxycontin.

"[Naloxone] completely reverses the profound respiratory depression that occurs with opioid overdose," explained one emergency room physician.

Bill supporters have expressed hope that by increasing the availability of naloxone, which can be administered in a variety of forms, they will mirror the experience of other states, which saw their rates of fatal opioid overdoses decline considerably after making the drug and accompanying overdose education more widely available.

It should be noted that SB 758 would also provide both civil and criminal immunity to prescribing physicians acting in good faith, as well as emergency responders, friends and caregivers who administer the drug.

The next stop for the bill is the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. Stay tuned for updates ...

If you have been charged with any sort of drug crime, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible as your rights, your reputation and your freedom may be at stake.

Sources: The Palm Beach Post, "Bills to help drug addicts pass first hurdles," Christine Stapleton, March 5, 2015; WUSF, "Lawmakers Consider Bill Aimed at Reducing Opioid Overdose Deaths," Feb. 20, 2015

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