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Seeking Medical Help During a Drug or Alcohol Overdose

| Mar 13, 2016 | Criminal Law

Seeking Medical Help During a Drug or Alcohol Overdose


The fear of being arrested and charged with a criminal offense can keep some people from seeking assistance when they or their friends are suffering from a drug overdose. It becomes a hard choice to weigh between seeking medical attention and risking arrest, and watching another person possibly die. Fortunately, this does not have to be a difficult choice anymore. The possession, sale, and distribution of various controlled substances is a criminal offense in every state, and the legislatures in many states, including New York, realize that this can have a chilling effect on seeking help in some cases. These states have therefore enacted certain “good Samaritan” laws that are meant to encourage people to seek help when needed.

Whether it is a teen experimenting with drugs for the first time or a regular drug user, it is possible for a person using drugs to overdose and die without immediate medical attention. Under New York law, a person who in good faith seeks medical attention for a person suffering a drug or alcohol overdose cannot be prosecuted for certain drug-related offenses or underage drinking as a result of that call. This protection extends to the person suffering from the drug or alcohol overdose as well, and he or she cannot face prosecution for possession either. Some New York State University campuses have amended their drug or alcohol policies to offer some leniency in these situations, and only begin serious discipline if there are repeated incidents. There are exceptions if the person making the call sold the drugs to the victim, is driving under the influence or committing another offense.

In additional attempts to limit overdoses in New York State, there is a law that makes it legal for non-medical professionals to administer a drug called Naloxone in an attempt to stop a drug overdose. This is a strong drug that counters the effects of drugs such as heroin, and can save lives. In some areas, Naloxone is available over the counter without a prescription, and there is a version of the drug that can be used as a nasal spray. The drug has the opposite effect of a drug such as heroin in the human body and is therefore not addictive. Some nonprofit organizations do provide free Naloxone kits in an effort to stop overdoses. If a good Samaritan has the training to engage in additional life saving measures, he or she may attempt to deliver first aid to a person suffering an overdose while waiting for paramedics to arrive. In many communities, there are training sessions available to train people on how to use the drug in the event of an overdose.

Therefore, when you need medical help after consuming any drug or alcohol, or witness another person who is suffering from an overdose, you can seek the help you need without fear of prosecution. If you have been arrested under these circumstances, contact experienced state and federal criminal defense attorney George F. Hildebrandt for a consultation.