Photo and article by Ramona du Houx
Rep. Henry Beck wants to prevent drug-overdoses in Maine by building on last year’s law that increases access to a life-saving medicine known as naloxone.
Beck’s bill would allow friends of the drug user, as well as others who are in a position to help, to administer the medication.
“Last year’s naloxone law established an important foundation that I hope to build on with this new bill,” said Beck. “My proposal can further save lives and improve public safety.”
Naloxone is a drug used to offset the effects of opiate overdose and is specifically used to counteract life-threatening depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system. Naloxone is not addictive and does not produce euphoria. It has no effect if there are no narcotics in a person’s system.
One provision of the bill would allow, under certain conditions, for naloxone to be administered by a wider array of health care professionals and first responders. This way, a doctor may prescribe naloxone to a greater number of people, thereby increasing the chances of saving a life from overdose. As it stands, only immediate family members of the drug user have access to a prescription for naloxone.
Since 2001, sixteen other states have passed laws making it easier to prescribe, dispense and administer naloxone.
Statistics released last year by the Maine Attorney General’s Office showed that the number of opiate overdose deaths in the state rose from 156 in 2011 to 163 in 2012 – almost the same number of people who died in traffic crashes that year. Heroin overdose deaths in Maine are also increasing sharply. Heroin overdoses claimed 28 lives in 2012, a fourfold increase from the previous year, and the number for 2013 is expected to be higher still.
For more information on Beck’s bill, go to:http://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280054265
Beck is a lawyer serving his fourth term in the Maine House and represents part of Waterville and Oakland.