Terming the growing rise in overdose deaths from heroin and prescription painkillers an “urgent public health crisis,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday called for interventions that included both law enforcement and treatment.
Holder, for example, urged first responders to carry naloxone, a drug that restores breathing to a person who is experiencing an overdose from heroin or painkillers.
A total of 17 states and the District of Columbia have amended their laws in recent years to increase access to naloxone, according to the Justice Department, which said it has resulted in more than 100,000 overdose reversals.
Heroin deaths have increased by 45% between 2006 and 2010, Holder said in a video message posted on the Justice Department website.
“When confronting the problem of substance abuse, it makes sense to focus attention on the most dangerous types of drugs,” Holder said. “And right now, few substances are more lethal than prescription opiates and heroin.”