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Abstract

Motor-vehicle-related deaths consistently topped the accidental death count in the United States for decades. In 2009, for the first time, drug poisoning took over as the number one accidental killer. In 1980, approximately 6,100 people died from drug overdose. In the past ten years, the drug overdose rate for males and females, regardless of race, ethnicity and age, increased. In 2000, 4.1 per 100,000 people died from unintentional drug overdose; in 2010, that number rose to 9.7 per 100,000. The drug overdose epidemic, now the leading cause of unintentional death in the United States, warrants national attention.

To reduce the number of drug overdose fatalities, existing laws must change; it is not enough to create, enact, and enforce new laws. Once counterproductive criminal laws that frustrate public health and public policy are repealed, new laws, known as 911 Good Samaritan Overdose Laws, can be enacted and enforced in a manner similar to highway safety laws.