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    The United States (US) and Canada are in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic. Many people who use illicit drugs (PWUD) do not call an emergency number 911 at the scene of an overdose due to fear of arrest. In the US and Canada, when an individual calls 911, both emergency medical services (EMS) and police are notified to attend the overdose event. In response, many settings in North America have introduced drug-related 'Good Samaritan' laws (GSLs) that aim to encourage PWUD to call 911 by providing legal immunity (mainly protections from drugs possessed for personal use) to those at the scene of the overdose. However, little is known about the effectiveness of these laws in increasing calls to 911. We conducted a literature review of the published literature between 2005 and 2019 to examine the effectiveness of GSLs. Searches were referenced using keywords that included: "good samaritan", "overdose", "emergency services", and "drug use". Among 68 articles identified, after eligibility screening, 12 publications were deemed to meet the inclusion criteria. These publications were largely quantitative observational studies (9/12), with a minority (3/12) being qualitative in design. Two major themes emerged: "knowledge of GSLs and calling EMS" and "overdose-related hospital admissions and mortality assessment". At this time, the current body of evidence regarding the effectiveness of GSLs in increasing calls to EMS and reducing drug-related harms is limited and mixed. Studies show that PWUD have low levels of knowledge regarding GSLs while some evidence suggests their effectiveness in increasing calls to EMS at the scene of an overdose. Given the current overdose crisis, further investigation is warranted to establish the effectiveness of these laws in reducing drug-related harms. Copyright © 2020 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


    Soroush Moallef, Kanna Hayashi. The effectiveness of drug-related Good Samaritan laws: A review of the literature. The International journal on drug policy. 2021 Apr;90:102773

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    PMID: 32467017

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