Published: Feb 26, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Feb 25, 2013 04:12 PM
In August, I lost my 25-year-old cousin Nick to an opiate overdose.
Nick was the baby of the family, a very talented musician and a warm, funny guy. It’s possible that the young people who were with him the night he died saw the signs of overdose, panicked and did not call 911 because they were afraid of legal ramifications. So they ditched him, leaving him alone to die.
It’s also possible that if one of those people had been able to possess and administer Naloxone, the opiate antagonist, they could have reversed his overdose and saved his life.
I mourn Nick every day and try to console his heartbroken mother, encouraging her to keep on going in spite of this tremendous loss. Through support groups, I’ve met several other mothers who are also living through the nightmare of losing a young son or daughter.
Nick and the children of those mothers can’t be brought back. But we can stop this from happening to other young people by supporting 911 Good Samaritan Laws, which grant limited immunity from drug-possession charges to those who respond to an overdose by calling 911.
People shouldn’t be punished for calling for help. 911 laws encourage law enforcement to prioritize saving lives over making arrests. North Carolina should also increase access to the opiate antagonist Naloxone, currently used by paramedics to reverse an opiate overdose and bring a person back from the brink of death. Doctors should be prescribing Naloxone to friends and family of anyone on painkiller prescriptions; those people should have it readily available in case the unthinkable were to happen. Naloxone is safe, effective, and cannot be abused or used to get high.
Overdose is a public health issue that affects us all. None of us knows who will die next from this insidious killer. It could be someone from your community, your neighbor or even one of your own family members. We must rally together to make N.C. safer.
Encourage your state lawmakers today to vote for 911 Good Samaritan law and increased Naloxone access law. Young lives depend on it.Hadley Gustafson lives in Carrboro and is a freelance multimedia (documentary video and animated infographics) activist. Current clients include the N.C. Harm Reduction Coalition and the national Veteran’s Health Administration.
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