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Attorney General’s official opinion could increase heroin overdose antidote prescriptions

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Sept. 3, 2015)-- Thursday, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller issued an official opinion that he said will make it easier for loved ones of an opioid addict to get their hands on naloxone, also known as Narcan.

This year, lawmakers passed a measure to give doctors the authority to prescribe the antidote and give it to those around an addict, to be used in case of an overdose.

Zoeller said first the state had to get around some legal hurdles.

"This is important because some of the people in the profession of pharmacy were concerned that there might be some liability," he said.

Zoeller hopes the official opinion will clear up some of the red tape. He said he's heard from big-box pharmacies and pharmacists who wanted a legal opinion, making sure those behind the counter had the authority to hand out the drug, with what's known as a standing order.

Zoeller said they can and should.

"This gives a lot of comfort to the people who are worried about whether some of the statutory provisions might come back and be read against the pharmacist," he said.

Heroin use is soaring in Indiana. Earlier this week, Indiana Govenor Mike Pence announced the creation of a task force to focus on treatment and prevention.

"We are in the middle of an epidemic of opiate deaths. People are dying, and people are dying at record numbers," said Dr. Daniel O'Donnell, Medical Director, with Indianapolis EMS.

Indianapolis EMS statistics show the trend. In 2012, medics administered 536 doses in potential overdose cases. In 2013, it grew to 629. By 2014, the number skyrocketed to 1,063. So far this year, they've given the antidote 754 times.

O'Donnell said there's no choice, they must administer the antidote to save lives. And as for criticism handing out naloxone might be giving users a pass, he said a life saved is better than a life lost.

"There's a valid point about enabling, but again, it's not all the long-time users that are overdosing and dying. These are first time users. These are accidental ingestions. These are folks who realize they have a problem, and they're trying to get treatment," he said.

Statistics show a user that's trying to recover from opioid addiction could relapse up to seven times before they get clean for good. Zoeller said that's why Indiana had to increase access to the antidote.

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