People who use heroin or other opioids will now be able to obtain a prescription for an emergency treatment that can reverse the effects of an overdose.
Nalaxone was previously only available to police officers and emergency medical providers trained in its use. On Tuesday, Gov. Maggie Hassan signed a bill into law that removes Nalaxone – which is sold under the trade name Narcan - from the state’s list of controlled substances, making it available to drug users and the friends and family of people with a history of opioid abuse.
The new law also exempts any medical professional who administers the drug from criminal or civil liability or disciplinary action by a licensing board.
“The rising rate of heroin and opioid overdoses is one of the most pressing public health and safety challenges facing our state,” Hassan said in a statement, “and while we work to strengthen our prevention and treatment efforts through measures like our bipartisan health care expansion plan, we must also do everything that we can to save lives when an overdose takes place.”
The state has seen a steep rise in heroin and opioid-related deaths. Drug overdoses killed a record 325 people in New Hampshire in 2014, compared to 193 the previous year; 98 deaths were attributed to heroin and other drugs. Another 145 were blamed on fentanyl, which is being sold as or mixed with heroin.
The administration of Narcan by emergency medical personnel rose from 897 in 2012 to 1,921 in 2014, according to the Bureau of EMS.
Earlier this year, the Department of Safety approved a rule that reduced the training hours required by police officers to carry and administer Narcan from 100 to eight.
That recommendation came from a strategic task force established by Hassan in September 2014, which also advised expanding the availability of Narcan to users and family members of addicts.