Advances in Overdose Prevention in Maine

Today I am turning over Smart Approaches to guest columnist (and friend and colleague) Alison Jones Webb who has a great article on Maine’s new overdose prevention law that goes into effect October 15th.  

If you live in Maine and you think that you are at risk for opioid overdose or if you know someone who is at risk for overdose, THERE IS HELP!  

Thanks to a new law, your healthcare provider can prescribe naloxone, a life saving medicine that reverses overdoses.

The Maine State Legislature recently passed a law that allows healthcare providers to prescribe naloxone to anyone who is in a position to reverse an opioid overdose. This includes family members, friends, and even bystanders. This is good news: if you think you might be in a situation where you could reverse an overdose, then you can ask your healthcare provider for a prescription. Naloxone typically comes in a kit and is administered in the nose or by injecting a pre-loaded syringe into the arm or leg. You can carry your naloxone kit at all times, so you are ready to help when it’s needed.

Representative Henry Beck, D-Waterville, introduced the law, and policy makers and advocates from across the state fought for its the passage. The Maine Harm Reduction Alliance was instrumental in educating lawmakers about the importance of this needed harm reduction strategy because opioid overdose deaths are on the rise.  Maine’s chapter of Young People in Recovery was key in lining up advocates to testify and write letters to lawmakers.  The new law goes into effect on October 15, 2015.

According to the World Health Organization, people who are most likely to witness an overdose are:

  • people at risk of an opioid overdose, their friends and families, and
  • people whose work brings them into contact with people who overdose (healthcare workers, police, emergency service workers, people providing accommodation to people who use drugs, peer education and outreach workers).

Risk factors for opioid overdose include:

  • people with opioid dependence, in particular following reduced tolerance (following detoxification, release from incarceration, cessation of treatment);
  • people who inject opioids;
  • people who use prescription opioids, in particular those taking higher doses;
  • people who use opioids in combination with other sedating substances;
  • people who use opioids and have medical conditions such as HIV, liver or lung disease or suffer from depression;
  • household members of people in possession of opioids (including prescription opioids).


Alison Webb, MA, MPH, is an independent public health consultant with over 20 years experience in community outreach and organizing, substance use and overdose prevention, community based substance use recovery supports, and linking community members with healthcare services. She participates in the Maine chapter of Young People in Recovery, the Maine Harm Reduction Alliance, and the Maine Recovery Communities Coalition. She is President of Nautilus Public Health.

Scott M. Gagnon, MPP, PS-C

About Scott M. Gagnon, MPP, PS-C

Scott M. Gagnon, MPP, PS-C is a Certified Prevention Specialist and is the Director of Operations at AdCare Educational Institute of Maine, Inc. He currently serves on the Maine Substance Abuse Services Commission as well as the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention National Advisory Council. Scott volunteers as the Chair of the marijuana policy education and advocacy group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana Maine and is the current Board President of the Maine Council on Problem Gambling. Scott also serves as a Co-chair of the Prevention & Harm Reduction task force of the Maine Opiate Collaborative, the effort convened by U.S. Attorney Thomas E Delahanty, II to address Maine's growing opiate and addiction crisis. Scott is the recipient of the 2015 Maine Public Health Association's Ruth S. Shaper Memorial Award and 2015 Healthy Androscoggin Will Bartlett Award and is also the 2013 recipient of the Maine Alliance to Prevent Substance Abuse Prevention Award.