For those at-risk for opioid overdose, Ohio's House Bill 4 offers hope. HB 4 aims to allow police officers and family members to furnish or dispense of naloxone, a drug designed to reverse the effects of a heroin overdose.
It's no secret that Ohio is in the midst of a drug epidemic. As far back as 2007, unintentional drug overdose surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of injury-related death. The Ohio Department of Health reports that nearly 2,000 Ohioans die every year from opiate overdose – prescription drugs and heroin are the primary culprits.
With drug overdoses increasing by almost 370 percent over the last decade, officials have had to get creative with finding a solution. The problem has evolved, and the tactics have to evolve with it. Enter naloxone.
What is naloxone?
Naloxone is an opiate reversal drug often administered to individuals who overdose on drugs like heroin. Naloxone can reverse the effects of an overdose making it a potentially life-saving prescription drug. The problem is, it's difficult to access. Currently, anyone who prescribes naloxone must be present when the drug is distributed. House Bill 4 would remove this requirement, allowing people like police officers and families of at-risk individuals to not only obtain but dispense of naloxone.
"House Bill 4 is just one piece of the overall approach to address the opioid epidemic in the State of Ohio," said Representative Sprague. "By allowing physicians to issue protocols for the furnishing of naloxone, this bill will increase access to this life-saving drug throughout our state."
Why is HB 4 so important for Ohioans?
Not only is drug overdose an epidemic, the face of drug use has changed drastically. Drug addiction isn't secluded to a small, niche, easily-identifiable group anymore. Drug use in Ohio has permeated not only urban, but suburban areas. It's a problem in both white and black communities, male and female, young and old. The Ohio Department of Health has identified seven major contributing factors to what they call the "heroin shift" –
- More and more people are becoming addicted to opioids, which often starts with prescription drug overuse
- Less prescription opioid pills than there have been in previous years
- More scrutiny of prescription drugs
- Prescription drug formulas that are more tamper-resistant and longer lasting
- An increase in heroin supply
- A decrease in the cost of heroin
- Heroin is being manufactured at a greater purity and potency than ever before
Mothers are losing sons. Husbands are losing wives. More must be done to curb the devastating effects of our heroin-saturated state. Ohio needs House Bill 4 to make naloxone more readily available. Drug addiction is a reality, admitting that and accepting every viable avenue to combat it is essential.
These chemical treatment options need to be on our streets, in police cruisers, with medics, and in the homes of struggling addicts and their loved ones. HB 4 legalizes medical intervention and dispensing naloxone auto injectors by non-medical persons. To learn more, you can read the bill here.