The Massachusetts 9-1-1 Good Samaritan Law was passed in 2012 in order to encourage people to call 9-1-1 during an overdose emergency. The Law protects people who call 9-1-1 during an overdose from being charged with possession of a controlled substance.
Do you know someone struggling with addiction? Do you need help? Call the Massachusetts Substance Abuse Information and Education Helpline: 1-800-327-5050 or visit their website. The Helpline provides free and anonymous information for alcohol and other drug use problems. www.helpline-online.com.
If there is a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.
The Good Samaritan Law
The Massachusetts Good Samaritan Law encourages people to seek emergency medical assistance for people in distress in order to reduce the chance of harm or death. Since the lives of those who overdose on opioids relies on the help of bystanders, the law has significant potential to help reduce the impact of the opioid epidemic.
The law protects you.
The Massachusetts Good Samaritan Law protects victims and those who call 9-1-1 for help from charge, prosecution, and conviction for possession or use of controlled substances. The Law, Chapter 94C, Section 34A: “Immunity from prosecution under Secs. 34 or 35 for persons seeking medical assistance for self or other experiencing a drug-related overdose” can be found on the Massachusetts Legislature General Laws website.
Know the Signs of Overdose
Signs of an opioid overdose may include:
- Breathing that is slow and shallow — or no breathing at all
- Very sleepy or unconscious and not responding to your voice or touch
- Blue or grayish skin color, with dark lips and ﬁngernails
- Snoring or gurgling sounds
If there are symptoms of an overdose:
- Tap, shake, and shout at the person to get a response
- If there is still no response, rub knuckles on the breast bone
- If no or little response, call 9-1-1
Opioids include heroin, codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone (i.e., Vicodin), Hydromorphone, morphine, and oxycodone, such as OxyContin and Percocet, among others.
An opioid overdose can cause a coma or death within minutes. If you see the signs of an overdose, call 9-1-1 immediately. A medication called Naloxone (Narcan) can reverse an overdose and save a life.
1. When you call 9-1-1:
- Give the address and location
- Tell them it’s an overdose so they can bring Naloxone (Narcan). Or say, “My friend is not breathing.” Or “My friend/child is unconscious and I can’t wake him/her up.”
- Stay with the person. The 9-1-1 Good Samaritan Law provides protection from arrest and prosecution for drug possession.
2. While you wait for the ambulance:
- Do rescue breathing.
- Give Naloxone (Narcan) if you have it. Learn more about how it works and how to access it. Learn more on the Naloxone Access page.
- If you have to leave the person for any amount of time, place the person on their side.
- Tell the ambulance staff anything you can about any alcohol or drugs the person has taken. If you cannot stay, leave a note with the information.
3. Do rescue breathing if breathing is slowed or stopped.
- Make sure nothing is in the mouth.
- Tilt head back, lift chin, pinch nose.
- Breathe in mouth once every 5 seconds.