US worried by rise in heroin overdose deaths

March 11, 2014 - 12:54:22 am
WASHINGTON: A sharp rise in US deaths from heroin and prescription abuse has created an “urgent public health crisis,” Attorney-General Eric Holder declared yesterday, promising tougher enforcement and improved drug treatment.

In a statement on the Department of Justice website, Holder said deaths from overdosing on heroin had risen by 45 percent between 2006 and 2010.

“Right now, few substances are more lethal than prescription opiates and heroin,” Holder said.

“The cycle of heroin abuse commonly begins with prescription opiate abuse,” Holder said, calling rise in use of the illegal opiate “a sad but not unpredictable symptom of the significant increase in prescription drug abuse we’ve seen over the past decade.”

Holder urged firefighters and ambulance workers to carry the overdose-reversal drug naloxone, which can restore breathing to the victim of a heroine or opioid overdose. He also is encouraging US law enforcement agencies to train and equip their personnel about how to administer the drug.

The Justice Department said 17 US states, as well as the city of Washington, DC, have amended their laws to increase access to the drug, reversing more than 10,000 overdoses since 2001.