Vigil shines light on dangers of prescription drug overdoses

Sep 3 2013 - 12:19am

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Prescription drug overdoses are the No. 1 cause of accidental death in Utah, even surpassing traffic accidents. A growing group of people who have been affected by overdose gathered at the Utah Capitol for a candlelight vigil and to spread awareness of the issue.

Zach Baker, executive director of the Harm Reduction Project, said prescription drug abuse is a growing trend, increasing nationwide in the last 11 years as documented.

The vigil Saturday night was also an opportunity for the group to educate people about legislation being introduced to help curb the rate of overdose deaths.

The first is the enactment of a "Good Samaritan" policy. It would allow people who are witnessing an overdose to call 911 and receive amnesty if they themselves were doing drugs.

One of the speakers at the event, Robynn DeNamur, said her brother was almost killed because he was left in a park by people when he was overdosing, most likely because they were afraid to call police. After a coma that lasted several months, he is alive, but lost 20 percent of his brain function.

Baker said the Good Samaritan law has been implemented in places like New York and Washington and has worked in reducing the number of overdose deaths.

Another legal limitation the group seeks to change is one governing Naloxone, which is used as an "anti-overdose" medication that can be prescribed to an individual and used by paramedics. The relaxed law would allow anyone to carry and use the drug akin to allergy medicine, which Baker said could save lives.

Both bills have been opened by Rep. Carol Spackman-Moss and Sen. Curt Bramble, but the group is seeking more support.

Contact reporter Andreas Rivera at 801-625-4227 or arivera@standard.net, or follow him on Twitter at @AndreasCRivera.

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