Unfortunately, there is a stigma attached to alcohol and drug-related emergencies. Students may hesitate to seek help due to concerns about judgment or reputational damage— especially if they are underage drinking. They are often afraid, ashamed or they simply don’t know who to call in the face of these emergencies.
According to the Medical Amnesty Initiative, almost 70% of teenagers have said that they are fearful of getting cited by law enforcement when they drink. Dozens of higher education institutions have started implementing medical amnesty policies demonstrating that the safety of students is their highest priority.
What are Medical Amnesty Laws?
Medical amnesty laws, also known as Good Samaritan laws, are state statutes designed to encourage individuals to seek medical help for someone experiencing an alcohol or drug-related emergency. These laws aim to protect both the person in need and those who seek help from legal consequences, such as underage drinking charges or possession of illicit substances. Many students might not be aware of how these laws can impact their college experience:
Why Does Education on Medical Amnesty Matter?
1. Save Lives
A study on the Magnitude of and Trends in Alcohol-Related Mortality and Morbidity Among U.S. College Students Ages 18-24 reveals that injuries are the primary cause of death among college students in this age group, with alcohol being the major contributing factor. Time is of the essence when dealing with alcohol or drug-related emergencies. These laws eliminate hesitancies to call and ask for help when it is needed the most.
2. Promote a Culture of Safety
By educating students on medical amnesty laws, campuses can foster a culture of safety and responsibility. Students will feel more comfortable seeking medical help without fear of punishment, ultimately creating a supportive environment where health and well-being are prioritized.
3. Empower Students as Active Bystanders
By recognizing the signs of an alcohol or drug-related emergency and knowing the legal protections in place, students can intervene confidently and promptly. When active bystanders speak up and intervene, they can prevent situations from escalating into full-blown crises.
By understanding and promoting these laws, we can create a safer environment where students feel empowered to prioritize health over fear of legal consequences. In fact, the number of alcohol-related EMS calls increased by almost 700%, in one year period after a Medical Amnesty law was implemented.
Stay safe, stay educated, and look out for one another!
Disclaimer: Laws regarding medical amnesty may vary, so it’s essential to consult local laws and regulations for accurate and up-to-date information. You can read about your state’s specific bills at medicalamnesty.org.
Hingson, R. W., Zha, W., & Weitzman, E. R. (2009). Magnitude of and trends in alcohol-related mortality and morbidity among U.S. college students ages 18-24, 1998-2005. Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs. Supplement, (16), 12–20. https://doi.org/10.15288/jsads.2009.s16.12
Medical Amnesty Initiative. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.medicalamnesty.org/#:~:text=THE FACTS,people in the United States.&text=In a one year period,calls increased by almost 700%.