Holder Promises Renewed Fight Against Heroin Epidemic

Holder Promises Renewed Fight Against Heroin Epidemic

By Bryan Le 03/10/14

The U.S. Attorney General revealed plans to crack down on cartel activity as well as urged first responders to carry naloxone, an overdose-reversing drug.

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In a weekly video address, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called rising heroin overdoses an "urgent and growing public health crisis" and promised that the Justice Department is committed to helping solve the problem with new enforcement strategies and treatment initiatives.

"Addiction to heroin and other opiates - including certain prescription painkillers – is impacting the lives of Americans in every state, in every region, and from every background and walk of life - and all too often, with deadly results," Holder said. "Confronting this crisis will require a combination of enforcement and treatment. The Justice Department is committed to both."

Heroin overdose deaths rose 45 percent between 2004 and 2010, and heroin seizures along the US-Mexico border went up by 320 percent in 2008. Holder blames the rise in prescribed medications. "Scientific studies, federal, state and local investigations, addiction treatment providers, and victims reveal that the cycle of heroin abuse commonly begins with prescription opiate abuse. The transition to - and increase in - heroin abuse is a sad but not unpredictable symptom of the significant increase in prescription drug abuse we’ve seen over the past decade."

On the Drug War front, Holder said the DEA would adopt new strategies to hit the whole drug supply chain and is laying plans to "prevent storefront drug traffickers from obtaining DEA registrations," and peddling prescription medications from legitimate drug stores.

Holder vowed to work with doctors, educators, and law enforcement officials to educate the public and potentially improve treatment. He also urged first responders to carry naloxone, a nasal spray that reverses the effects of opioid overdose almost instantly, as more than 10,000 lives have been saved in the 17 states (and the District of Columbia) who have amended laws to grant easier access by the emergency drug.

“Used in concert with ‘Good Samaritan’ laws, which grant immunity from criminal prosecution to those seeking medical help for someone experiencing an overdose, naloxone can save lives,” he said.