In the past two years, 17 states have passed laws increasing access to the overdose antidote naloxone, bringing the total to 24. Most of the laws allow doctors to prescribe naloxone to friends and family members of a person who abuses opioids.
The laws also remove legal liability for prescribers and for those who administer naloxone, according to The Wall Street Journal.
In addition, 17 states and the District of Columbia have passed "Good Samaritan" laws, which provide limited legal immunity for people who call for help for a person who is overdosing.
These laws were passed in response to concerns that people who are present during an overdose may hesitate to call 911 because they fear legal consequences, according to overdose prevention expert Traci Green, a professor of emergency medicine at Brown University.
Naloxone bills have been passed in states with both liberal and conservative legislatures, the article notes.
The antidote has been used for decades in emergency rooms and doctors' offices. It can be administered by nasal spray or injection. In at least 26 states, at least one police department has equipped personnel with naloxone. Overdose-prevention organizations such as the Harm Reduction Coalition have distributed thousands of naloxone kits.
Earlier this year, federal officials urged first responders to increase their use of naloxone to reverse overdoses of heroin and prescription opioids.