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Michael Jackson Probably O.D.'d -- Just Like Thousands of Americans Who Fall Victim to Our Overdose Epidemic

We must learn how to reduce the harms associated with our drug use, including reducing easily preventable deaths from overdose.

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Fortunately some attention is now being paid to the overdose crisis. A bill known as the Drug Overdose Reduction Act was recently introduced in Congress by Rep Donna F. Edwards (D-MD). The bill would create a federal grant program to provide cities, states, tribal governments and community-based groups with funding to prevent and reduce overdose deaths; task the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with responsibility for reducing overdose deaths; commission studies on the efficacy of various strategies to reduce overdose deaths; and create a nationwide surveillance system for monitoring overdose trends. A Facebook group called Purple Ribbons for Overdose Prevention now has nearly six thousand members across the country and is growing daily.

Another part of the solution to the overdose crisis are "Good Samaritan/911” laws, which provide immunity from arrest and prosecution for drug use or possession to anyone who calls 911 to report an overdose. Many lives could be saved if friends of overdose victims weren’t afraid of being prosecuted if the police are called to the scene. New Mexico last year became the first state to pass such a law, and similar legislation is now pending in several states.

We need to accept the reality that people will always use drugs, whether legal or illegal, prescribed or sold on the street, mood or performance enhancers, pain killers or stress reducers or sleep-enablers. We are a nation of drug users. We must learn how to reduce the harms associated with our drug use, including reducing the unconscionable and unnecessary number of deaths from overdose.

Jill Harris is the Managing Director of Public Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance .

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