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UNG group spearheads awareness campaign for Medical Amnesty Law
Students hope to lessen drug overdose deaths
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If there’s life, there is hope.

Such is the motto of the University of North Georgia chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, according to Jeremy Sharp, chapter president and North Georgia student.

Students at the university have worked actively since the passing of the Medical Amnesty Law in April to inform the public about its meaning and effects.

“Our goal is to get information out about this law to anyone,” Sharp said. “It doesn’t do any good if people don’t know they can call for help or don’t know about the drug use going on in their communities.”

Sharp said the organization’s mission is to help the parents, friends and loved ones of people struggling with addiction.

According to Sharp, there are two parts to the medical amnesty law.

“The first part is of course the medical amnesty for individuals who seek help in the event of a drug overdose,” Sharp said. “So this means, you’re at a party with a bunch of friends around and someone’s consumed some sort of illegal substance. If you call for help and seek in good faith medical attention for that individual, you’ll be immune from prosecution for simple drug possession as well as underage drinking.”

The second part of the law expands access to naloxone, a drug administered to reverse the effects of opiates. It has no potential for overdose and, since the law passed, has saved more than 70 lives.

“It’s basically a miracle drug,” Sharp said.

Naloxone is now being carried in eight different Georgia public safety agencies and by agencies at Kennesaw University and the University of Georgia.

Sharp said an officer in Canton sent a message last week to another organization he works with called Georgia Overdose Prevention.

“They just started carrying naloxone and had just had their first reversal,” Sharp said. “He just said it was really, really amazing.”

While the Gainesville Police Department and Hall County Sheriff’s Office don’t carry naloxone, Sharp said his organization is trying to pressure them and others across the state to consider doing so.

At North Georgia, several student organizations have worked to establish a medical amnesty policy on all four campuses.

“I was told by one of the deans at our school that the first day this policy went into effect, they had a call for help on the Dahlonega campus and were able to cite the policy,” he said.

In Georgia, people between the ages of 15 and 24 are at least 10 percent more likely to die from an overdose than people of any other age, according to the Department of Public Health.

To combat such statistics, the concerned students at North Georgia are actively trying to raise awareness.

“We’ve been distributing leaflets about what to do in the event of an overdose,” Sharp said.

“Things like, ‘Call 911, administer CPR, stay with the individual, lay them on their side.’”

Sharp said the more young people on campuses who are prepared for such an event, the more lives they can save.

“That’s what this is all about,” he said. “It’s about saving lives.”

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