The state of Georgia has been hit quite hard by the opioid epidemic and is at the center of the Atlanta-Carolinas “high-intensity drug trafficking area” as designated by the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the DEA. This area has been expanding in recent years, with counties regularly added in the North Georgia and Coastal Georgia regions. This comes with some benefits for people in Georgia as there is additional federal funding diverted to the region to provide support for community services such as overdose prevention.
Georgia’s Good Samaritan Laws
Similar to several other states, Georgia has a comprehensive “911 Medical Amnesty Law” in place that provides legal protections for people who call emergency services if they witness an overdose. These protections are extended even if they have drugs on them when help arrives. This bill was passed on April 24th of 2014 in response to several high-profile overdoses that resulted in fatalities simply because the people at the scene were too afraid to call an ambulance for fear of being arrested themselves.
- NOTE: The following paragraph is not intended to be legal advice. It is simply a layman’s interpretation of a legal document.
According to the Georgia General Assembly, someone who summons medical assistance for an overdose victim will be exempt from prosecution for a “drug violation” if drug possession was discovered as a direct result of them seeking medical help (H.B. 965, Page 3, Lines 79-86). The definition of the term drug violation used in the bill is described as “less than 4 grams of a solid substance or less than 1 milliliter of a liquid substance” (H.B. 965, Page 3, Lines 62-66). There are additional protections in this bill for those who summon medical help for an overdose victim while they themselves are on pretrial diversion, probation, parole, or are in violation of a protective or restraining order.
What Does This Mean?
In practice, this means that someone may not be arrested for calling 911 for someone who is overdosing so long as only “personal use drugs” are present and not large quantities. These laws protect both the person who calls for assistance and the victim of an overdose. This is further explained in a document from Georgia Overdose Prevention. If you see someone is overdosing on drugs or alcohol and you call the police, you cannot be arrested for drug possession so long as the amount of drugs does not exceed a certain limit.
Similar laws also provide access to naloxone for anyone who wants it, no prescription necessary. Some pharmacies can write a prescription on the spot, and more people having this potentially life-saving drug on hand may help to save lives. In the wake of these “Good Samaritan” and naloxone access laws, the stage is set for anyone to play a role in ending opioid overdose deaths across the state.
Georgia Overdose Prevention Resources
Some Georgia-specific overdose prevention organizations and resources include:
- Georgia Overdose Prevention: An organization that provides naloxone kits to “high-risk” individuals and their families. They also advocate harm-reduction strategies to help prevent secondary health issues from certain methods of drug use.
- Georgia Prevention Project: An awareness and prevention organization that is aimed specifically at teens and young adults. They work to raise awareness and provide resources to educate and inform young people about the dangers of drug use.
- Stop RX Abuse in Georgia: This initiative is aimed at reducing prescription opioid overdoses by providing guidance to safe disposal boxes for old or unwanted prescription opioids.
- Dose of Reality: A prevention organization that provides support resources and information about how you can help prevent opioid overdoses in Georgia.
- Voices for Prevention – Georgia: An overdose and suicide prevention organization that performs advocacy work and connects individuals and organizations throughout the state to help promote awareness and best practices for the prevention of these and related issues.
Naloxone is a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose and potentially save a life. In Georgia, there are many ways for someone to obtain naloxone. A list of naloxone resources in Georgia includes:
- Next Distro – Georgia: This naloxone information and locator site provides a wealth of information about how to use this medication as well as where to get it in Georgia.
- Georgia Pharmacy Association: This website provides several informative and helpful fact sheets about naloxone as well as information about Georgia’s Naloxone Standing Order.
- Opioid Overdose Rescue: This helpful website provides a step-by-step walkthrough of what to do in the event of an opioid overdose.