U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder encouraged increased access to overdose reversal drug Naloxone as a response to rising overdose deaths from heroin and other prescription opiates.
In a video message published on the U.S. Justice Department’s website, the Attorney General called opiate addiction and resulting deaths an urgent and public health crisis. “Addiction to heroin and other opiates – including certain prescription pain-killers – 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. Between 2006 and 2010, heroin overdose deaths increased by 45 percent. 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.”
Attorney General Holder said a combination of enforcement and treatment will be needed to confront the crisis, adding that the Justice Department is committed to both. “Of course, enforcement alone won’t solve the problem. That’s why we are enlisting a variety of partners – including doctors, educators, community leaders, and police officials – to increase our support for education, prevention, and treatment.” He also urged local first responders to carry and use naloxone under ‘Good Samaritan’ laws to rescue a victim in danger of heroin or opioid overdose.
Naloxone is an opioid antagonist used to prevent or reverse effects of opioid effects such as breathing difficulty, sleepiness, low blood pressure, and death. The drug is marketed by Hospira under the brand name Narcan.
Good Samaritan laws grant immunity from criminal prosecution those who seek medical help for someone experiencing a drug overdose. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have amended laws to increase access to Naloxone, leading to more than 10,000 overdose reversals since 2001.