A bill that would save lives by providing first-responders the ability to administer a medication that reverses narcotic (opiate) overdoses is now before the Legislature.

Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is an opiate antagonist and has been available since the 1960s. This medication saves lives, is not addictive, does not produce euphoria and has no effect if there are no narcotics in someone’s system.

Individuals who overdose and receive naloxone may wake up in withdrawal, which is very unpleasant. After going through this painful experience, they are more likely to accept treatment for their addiction.

It is important to note that naloxone is not a replacement for medical care. Someone who overdoses and is given naloxone should be taken immediately to a hospital emergency room for further treatment, since this medication often will wear off before the narcotics do.

As a practicing physician, I have treated patients for narcotic overdoses in the hospital. I have had patients whose children have died from drug overdoses, and this medication could have saved their lives, since naloxone buys time for emergency medical personnel to arrive and provide life-saving care.

Since 2001, 16 other states have passed laws making it easier to prescribe, dispense and administer naloxone.

Opiate drug overdose deaths are on the rise in Maine. Our state saw a fourfold increase in heroin overdose deaths in 2012, and the number is expected to be higher in 2013.

I’m glad that the governor recognizes the severity of Maine’s opioid problem, but this issue is too big for a law-enforcement solution alone. It’s important that we pass laws that save lives and that help people get treatment to overcome addiction so they can live healthy, successful lives.

Rep. Ann DorneyD-Norridgewock

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