Overdose Crisis in United States: Second-leading Cause of Accidental Deaths; Trails only Driving Fatalities

Press Release June 8, 2009
Media Contact

Tony Newman at 646-335-5384 or Tommy McDonald

There will be a teleconference on June 10, to discuss new federal legislation to reduce overdose deaths introduced by Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards (D-4th/MD), a new report on accidental overdose fatalities by the Drug Policy Alliance, and a review of city and state programs on the cutting edge of implementing life saving policies.

Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards (D-4th/MD) will introduce legislation this week to address the growing problem. The overdose fatality prevention bill will create a $27 million per annum grant for cities, states, tribal governments and nonprofit groups to implement overdose prevention plans. Despite more than 20,000 overdose deaths a year, not a single federal dollar is currently dedicated to overdose death prevention.

The Drug Policy Alliance will release a new report, Preventing Overdose, Saving Lives that assesses the crisis, examines policy solutions available and how such policies have been successfully implemented across the country. The report recommends a range of policy strategies from promoting “Good Samaritan” immunity laws that encourage people who are witnessing an overdose to call 911 without fear of arrest, to removing barriers to naloxone, a low cost drug that reverses overdoses within three minutes of being administered.

A serious, but largely overlooked, crisis has taken root in the United States. Accidental drug overdose-from both legal and illegal drugs-now ranks second only to auto collisions among the leading causes of accidental deaths in the United States, surpassing firearms-related deaths. This epidemic continues virtually unchecked despite existence of practical, low-cost interventions.

“While many elected officials are ignoring rising overdose deaths, Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards is showing tremendous leadership on this issue in Congress,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “This legislation will save thousands of lives.”

Recently, New Mexico became the first state to enact a 911 Good Samaritan Act and current legislation is being considered in Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, and Washington. Maryland passed legislation this year allowing the act of calling 911 during an alcohol or drug overdose to be used as a mitigating factor in future criminal proceedings. Naloxone availability programs have been successfully implemented statewide in New Mexico and in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco among other cities, where its use resulted in thousands of overdose reversals and saved lives.

What: Press Teleconference on Overdose Prevention Legislation and Report

When: Wednesday June 10, at 1 p.m. EDT

Call in: 1-800-311-9402 Passcode: Saving Lives


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