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    Oregon Governor signs bill for overdose prevention programs

    On Thursday, January 6th, Oregon Governor, John Kitzhaber,  signed SB 384 A into law. The bill requires the Oregon Health Authority to  establish rules for training programs that will instruct individuals on  “lifesaving treatments for opiate overdose.”

    On Thursday, January 6, Oregon Governor, John Kitzhaber,  signed SB 384 Ainto law–the bill requires the Oregon Health  Authority to establish rules and regulations for training programs that will  instruct individuals on lifesaving treatments for opiate overdose.  The law  additionally allows professionals, licensed by the Pharmacy Board, to distribute  naloxone– a drug capable of reversing opiate overdose–to individuals that have  completed the training program. These trainees are granted immunity from civil  and criminal liability when administering naloxone in good faith to treat opiate  overdoses. The law reaches the Governor’s desk after being passed nearly  unanimously through both Houses, receiving only one nay vote from Representative  Bob Jenson (R-Pendleton).

    These types of programs, which target  individuals who use drugs and intend to mitigate the negative effects of drug  use, are part of a pragmatic approach adopted by policy-makers known as harm  reduction. Oregon has historically been a progressive leader on harm reduction  issues.  In 1987 Oregon was one of the first states to address the issue of  clean syringe access near the height of the AIDS epidemic, excluding syringes  from its drug paraphernalia statute.
    Harm reduction policies have often been  controversial, as opponents of the policies claim that these laws seem to  condone drug use. In Oregon, The Oregon Trial Lawyers Association voiced their  concern over the granting of immunity to those who have broken the law by using  or possessing drugs in testimonygiven to the House Committee on Health Care, which  reviewed the proposal.
    However, the overwhelming legislative  support accorded to the bill could be attributed to the increase in the drug  overdose rates in Oregon, which had the highest rate of illicit drug use  nationally in 2010-2011. Overdose rates have skyrocketed due to the increased  availability and use of designer, prescription drugs, containing powerful  opiates such as Oxycodone, Hydrocodone and Methadone. According to a report by the Oregon Health Authority as part of the  Governor’s Workshop on Prescription Drug Misuse, 53 percent of drug overdoses  recorded in Oregon were associated with prescription drug use, and according to testimonydelivered by Dr. Gary Oxman to both houses,  prescription drug overdose deaths in Oregon increased 400 percent from 2000 to  2011.
    As prescription drug abuse has  increased, the problem of drug overdose has spread beyond the traditionally  marginalized groups of “social pariahs” that are normally associated with drug  use. From 1992 to 2011 the percentage of youth under 26, admitted for treatment  of prescription drug abuse more than doubled. Young people and adults who are  prescribed opiates to treat chronic pain or other conditions may become addicted  to opiates, and in turn face increased risk of overdose. Forty-five percent of  Oregon heroin users reported becoming addicted to prescription drugs before  moving to heroin.
    In light of this trend, the face of the  drug-user has changed. The increased exposure of the young and the elderly to  the risk of overdose has made the of harm reduction a central issue in Oregon.  The moving testimonyof Representative Jennifer Williamson, who  represents the west-side of Portland, is evidence of this fact. In 2010  Representative Williamson’s mother overdosed on her pain  medication and nearly  died after her pharmacy changed her dosage without her realizing. Representative  Williamson’s mother was able to receive life-saving treatment at the nearby  emergency room, but the same options might not be available to other Oregonians  dealing with overdose.
    As noted in Dr. Oxman’s testimony,  similar policies have already been adopted in other states and have shown to  reduce overdose deaths by 37 to 90 percent, depending on the size and scope of  the distribution efforts.  These programs are also relatively cost-efficient  given the life-saving benefits they can have.  In recognition of the urgency of  the issue, under the provisions of the bill, the law goes into effect  immediately.
    By Matthew DeLuca

    Jun 8, 2013

    in Health  http://digitaljournal.com/article/351816#ixzz2W2xSTjRL

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