Accidental drug overdose deaths in Kentucky increased in 2014 according to data
just published by the Kentucky Office for Drug Control Policy. Hardest hit
counties appear to be Jefferson, Fayette, and Northern Kentucky, among others.
Floyd County had the highest per capita death rate of 55 per 100,000. Fayette
County saw the largest increase, with a 25% jump over 2013. The overwhelming
majority of cases involved heroin and other opioids.
Opioid overdose deaths are preventable, but medical aid must be administered
quickly. Opioids cause respiratory depression as a side effect. Too much and the
person stops breathing. Without intervention death follows. Naloxone, which all
ambulances—and now many police cars carry, will scrub opioids from opioid
receptors in the brain, and reverse the overdose in an instant. But, the person
overdosing can’t make the call for help themselves—they’re busy dying!
The 2015 Heroin bill authorized “911 Good Samaritan” immunity from
prosecution for those using drugs at the time they call for help for someone
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for overdose victims to be left to die without
any medical aid for fear of prosecution. People have been known to drop an
overdosing friend at the outside of a hospital, or down the street, or just not call for
help at all. One Kentucky legislator speaks of a nephew whose girlfriend was
afraid to call 911 for him because she thought he would get in trouble for using
illegal drugs—needless to say, he didn’t make it!
YOU CAN’T TREAT DEAD PEOPLE
Many critics complain that immunity from prosecution will only encourage more
drug use. Nonsense—unremitted addiction causes more drug use, and you can’t
treat the addiction if the person is dead.
The Legislature seems to wisely perceive addiction as a medical issue much more
than a criminal issue. The recent Heroin bill does provide stiffer penalties for
those dealing drugs. However, it puts in place provision for the reality of addictive
thinking, and attempts to counter the mistakes we’ve made in the past by
criminalizing the disease instead of creating more opportunities for people to
encounter help and support. Ultimately, they have to stay alive for us to treat the
disorder that’s trying to kill them. Please spread the word about 911 Good
Samaritan Immunity for overdoses in Kentucky.