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Measure Would Make Drug Overdose Antitdote More Widely Available In California

Aired 9/1/14 on KPBS News.

A bill designed to reduce drug overdose deaths in California is on its way to the governor’s desk.

Fatal drug overdoses have become an epidemic in the United States, killing 38,329 Americans in 2010.

A bill approved by the California Legislature aims to reduce the problem.

The measure — AB 1535 — would let pharmacists dispense naloxone, an antidote to overdoses, without a prescription.

Emergency room doctors and paramedics have used it for decades.

It’s available as an injectable drug or a nasal spray.

Laura Thomas, deputy state director of the non-profit Drug Policy Alliance, said the medication works almost immediately.

“It works against Oxycontin, heroin, methodone, anything that’s an opiate," Thomas explained. "If you don’t have any opiates in your system, you won’t have any reaction to the drug at all.”

Drug overdoses have become the nation’s leading cause of accidental death. Prescription narcotics, including pain killers like OxyContin and Vicodin, are the main culprits.

If Gov. Jerry Brown signs the bill, California would become the fifth state to allow pharmacists to sell naloxone over-the-counter.

San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies became the first law enforcement officers in the state to carry naloxone earlier this summer.

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