Why Are Fatal Overdoses Increasing, And What Can We Do About It?

Courtney Gallo Hunter, VP, State Policy

As our country reels from COVID-19, drug overdose deaths are on the rise.

In conjunction with state stay-at-home orders, we have seen a 17.5% increase in fatal overdoses over the same time period last year. There is a clear correlation between the pandemic and overdose deaths. The isolation, stress, and economic devestation of COVID-19 is fueling America's addiction crisis.

This situation needs an urgent response. One opportunity we have to stem the tide is by increasing access to naloxone, the opioid overdose antidote that can save a life in minutes. While people are using drugs in isolation and at home, family and friends need to have naloxone on them and in the house.  

All 50 states have naloxone access laws, or NALs, but they are not all equal.

Some NALs, including those in Alaska, California, Connecticut, Idaho, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, and South Carolina, give pharmacists direct authority to dispense naloxone to anyone who requests it. The direct authority is critically important policy. It means that communities do not have to be reliant on first responders or health care providers who are already overwhelmed with COVID-19. But NALs in certain other states only give pharmacists indirect authority to dispense naloxone to people enrolled in certain treatment programs, or who meet other specific criteria.

Studies from NIH’s Healing Communities found that states that adopted direct authority NALs experienced far greater reductions in opioid-related deaths than states with indirect authority NALs. Specifically, the analysis showed that in the year after direct authority NALs were enacted, fatal opioid overdoses in those states fell an average of 27%, with even steeper declines in ensuing years.

We can’t waste any more time to help save lives. Sign the petition to increase access to naloxone for everyday Americans, and check out this detailed map of where to access naloxone in your community.