Changes to drug laws aim to save lives

Emergency medical service will not be obliged to inform police about overdose cases., 12 Aug 2014 - 19:14, Tbilisi,Georgia

Drug experts are welcoming changes to the country’s drug laws after the Government imposed measures to decrease the number of deaths from a drug overdose.

A special amendment was made to an order dated December 2000 by the Minister of Health, whereby ambulance staff and medical experts were no longer obliged to inform law enforcement agencies when a person experienced a drug overdose.

Many believed the law change was necessary and could save many lives, which was jointly initiated by the Ministries of Health and Internal Affairs.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs said an "internal order by the Minister” issued two years ago implied that law enforcement agencies should not react to instances of drug overdoses however this was widely unknown by the public.

The Ministry said people assumed they would face criminal charges if they presented at a medical centre following drug overdose, and in fear of being turned over to authorities, often did not see medical help.

With the amendment, both ministries believed the law was "in favour of human life”.

"With this decision, many young people will not die as a result of drug overdose after being in fear of seeking medical help in fear of criminal detention,” said Marina Darakhvelidze, Head of the Health Department of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Affairs.

A drug expert believe the initiative was "very timely” and this law change had been needed for many years.

"This is a very significant change which will give us the possibility to have official statistics about drug overdose cases and what is more important, save lives of more patients, young people,” narcologist Zurab Sikharulidze said.

"Also we will be aware how to avoid such cases and have a better possibility to manage the drug policy in the country.”

The Minister of Health Labour and Social Affairs has already signed the amended order, meaning the regulation has already come into force.