Editorial: Overdose Deaths Are Preventable

Editorial: Overdose Deaths Are Preventable

New “safe reporting” law encourages people to seek help in time.

The death rate due to heroin overdose more than doubled between 2010 through 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), with an average increase of 37 percent per year in the United States.

What the statistics don’t say is that most of these deaths are preventable nearly to the last breath. Heroin and other opioids affect the part of the brain which regulates breathing, and opioids in high doses can cause respiratory depression and death.

Naloxone, which is effectively an antidote to opioid overdose, will completely reverse the effects of an opioid overdose if administered in time.

Emylee Lonczak, a McLean teenager who died of an overdose in what was reported to be her first encounter with heroin, might still be alive if the people with her at the time had taken her to a hospital or called 911.

New legislation designed to protect people seeking help for friends experiencing overdose should make it simpler to do the right thing.

State Sen. Chap Petersen sponsored the bill, Safe Reporting of Overdoses, which was signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe last week.

"The next step is to get the word out to young people: If a friend is in distress, you have a responsibility and now you have legal protections. Do the right thing. Make a call to save a life," said Petersen said after the Governor signed the bill.

The law also applies to alcohol overdoses. Petersen collaborated with a Fairfax High School classmate, Gerald Lawson, now a professor at Virginia Tech, in pressing for protection for Good Samaritans in these circumstances.

The Food and Drug Administration last year approved a hand-held auto-injector designed for family and caregivers who might be witness to an overdose to administer a single dose of the drug naloxone.

Safe reporting of overdoses SB 892, summary as passed.

Establishes an affirmative defense to prosecution of an individual for (i) simple possession of a controlled substance, marijuana, or controlled paraphernalia; (ii) intoxication in public; or (iii) the unlawful purchase, possession, or consumption of alcohol if such individual sought or obtained emergency medical attention for himself or for another individual because of a drug-related or alcohol-related overdose and if the evidence for the charge was obtained as a result of the individual seeking or obtaining emergency medical attention. The bill provides that the affirmative defense may only be invoked by an individual who (a) remains at the scene of the overdose or at any location to which he is transported for emergency medical attention until a law-enforcement officer responds to the report of an overdose or, if no law-enforcement officer is present at either the scene or the other location, cooperates with law enforcement, (b) identifies himself to the responding law-enforcement officer, and (c) cooperates, upon request, with any criminal investigation reasonably related to the drug or alcohol that resulted in the overdose. No individual may assert this affirmative defense if the emergency medical attention sought or obtained was during the execution of a search warrant or during the conduct of a lawful search or a lawful arrest.

Send Photos for Father’s Day

Father's Day is Sunday, June 21, and once again the Connection will publish a gallery of Father's Day photos.

Every year at this time, the Connection puts out the call for photographs of fathers and their children, grandfathers and their children and grandchildren.

Send in photos as soon as possible, with the following information: the town where you live, the names of everyone in the picture, the approximate date the picture was taken, the ages of the children and a sentence or two about what is happening and where the photograph was taken. Be sure to tell us your town name and neighborhood. Photos are due by June 15.

You can submit your photos online at www.connectionnewspapers.com/fathersday. You can also email photos to editors@connectionnewspapers.com.