Drug overdose death rates in the U.S. have more than tripled since 1990 and have never been higher. In 2008, more than 36,000 people died from drug overdoses, and most of these deaths were caused by prescription drugs. Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States. Every 19 minutes, an American dies of a drug overdose1.
Accidental overdose deaths are the leading cause of accidental death in New York State, exceeding even motor vehicle accidents. Many of these deaths are preventable, but most people witnessing a drug overdose don’t call for emergency assistance. Why? Studies have found that for those witnessing a drug overdose, the majority hesitate to call emergency services due to fear of police arrest or criminal prosecution for drug possession (Drug Policy Alliance)2.
The New York State Good Samaritan 911 law seeks to address research that finds a majority of people who witness a drug overdose are hesitant to call 911 because they fear being arrested for drug possession2. New York’s law provides some protection from charges and prosecution for possessing small amounts of drugs. It also protects against being arrested for misdemeanor possession of residual amounts of drugs or paraphernalia. The law does not protect people who have large amounts of drugs for sale, or who are engaged in drug trafficking.