State officials work to reduce overdose deaths

LITTLE ROCK – Every day in Arkansas, first responders save the lives of 11 people from painkillers overdoses.

Thanks to legislation enacted earlier this year, even more people can be resuscitated from potentially fatal opioid overdoses. Law 651 of 2021 states that when a doctor prescribes opioids, the doctor must also prescribe naloxone, a drug that can quickly reverse the effects of an overdose.

Under Law 651, doctors must provide advice on how to safely and effectively use opioid and naloxone.

So far this year, more than 1,000 people in Arkansas have been saved by first responders using naloxone. It is commonly referred to by its brand name, Narcan.

The legislature has enacted several laws to save people from the epidemic of opioid overdoses. Law 284 of 2017 allows pharmacists to dispense naloxone to friends and family of someone who is at risk of dying from an overdose.

In 2015, lawmakers passed Law 1114 to grant immunity from arrest to friends of someone who is about to die of an overdose, whether they take them to hospital or contact law enforcement. order for medical assistance.

Also in 2015, the legislature approved Law 1222 to grant civil immunity to emergency medical technicians and first responders who in good faith administer naloxone to someone at risk of an opioid overdose.

The legislature also created the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which helps prevent abuse by allowing authorities to track people who consume excessive amounts of additive drugs.

Opioids are prescribed for moderate to severe pain, but one of their side effects is that they are addictive. According to the Centers for Disease Control, common types of opioids are oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone, and morphine.

Heroin is an illegal opioid. Fentanyl is an even more potent opioid than heroin. It is a synthetic version that is illegally manufactured and sold in underground drug markets.

Earlier this year, the state Crime Lab reported that for the first time, more people in Arkansas had died from overdoses of fentanyl than methamphetamine. The state’s director of drugs said illegal fentanyl shipments from Mexico and China were the main cause of the increase in fentanyl overdoses.

Arkansas is second in the country for opioid prescription rate – an average of 86.3 prescriptions per 100 people, compared to the national average of 46.7 opioid prescriptions per 100 people.

The state attorney general recently announced a possible settlement of a lawsuit filed by many states, cities and counties against drug companies. If approved by government entities, drug companies will pay a total of $ 26 billion nationwide to settle the thousands of lawsuits filed against them. Arkansas would receive $ 216 million, to be spent primarily on treatment and prevention of opioid abuse.

Pharmaceutical companies have agreed to work under a system that will track opioid purchases, to prevent suspicious shipments. Information on drug shipments will be shared with state regulators.

Before the lawsuits, pharmaceutical companies distributed millions of pills to small rural communities. Additionally, drug makers have failed to educate doctors about true opioid addiction.

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Editor’s Note: Arkansas Sen. Cecile Bledsoe represents the third district. From Rogers, Senator Bledsoe is Chairman of the Senate Health Committee.

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