AG Eric Holder: Increasing heroin overdose deaths are an ‘urgent and growing public health crisis’

AG Eric Holder: Increasing heroin overdose deaths are an ‘urgent and growing public health crisis’

The attorney general said the growing use of heroin is a "crisis."

Heroin overdose deaths rose by 45 percent between 2006 and 2010, creating an “urgent public health crisis,” according to Attorney General Eric Holder, with 3,038 fatal heroin overdoses reported in 2010. Holder released a video message on Monday, speaking out on heroin addiction and the rising death toll.

“Right now, few substances are more lethal than prescription opiates and heroin,” said Holder. “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’s announcement signals that the Drug Enforcement Administration may be shifting its attention to fighting more lethal drugs such as heroin, as marijuana use is becoming more publicly acceptable, and legal in an increasing number of states. The recent rise in heroin use coincides with abuse of prescription opiate-based painkillers such as Oxycodone. Many individuals who start out abusing prescription painkillers turn to heroin as they build up a tolerance to the prescription drugs and find they can obtain heroin much more cheaply.

Efforts to seize heroin and other opioids around the country have been expanded to target all levels of the supply chain, including those who prescribe, fill out, and distribute prescriptions illegally. Holder noted that since 2011, the DEA has opened more than 4,500 heroin-related investigations, resulting in a 320 percent increase in the amount of heroin confiscated near the border of the U.S. and Mexico between 2008 and 2013.

As part of the campaign against heroin, Holder reiterated the Obama administration’s call for more law enforcement agencies to train and equip personnel with an overdose medication called naloxone. He says emergency use of naloxone had resulted in 10,000 overdose reversals since 2001.

Heroin abuse has been in the national spotlight since the accidental drug overdose death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman last month.

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