U.S. News


Eric Holder: Heroin Overdoses An 'Urgent Health Crisis'

As heroin overdoses increase, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says both law enforcement and treatment efforts are key in reducing use of the drug.
Posted at 2:59 PM, Mar 10, 2014

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has vowed to combat what he calls an "urgent public health crisis" —  the rise in deaths from heroin overdoses.

In a statement Monday, Holder says heroin overdoses increased 45 percent between 2006 and 2010. He adds that addiction to opiates such as heroin usually stems from prescription painkiller abuse. (Via WRC-TV)

Holder also notes the Drug Enforcement Administration has seen a 320 percent increase in heroin seized along the Mexico border from 2008 to 2013 — an example of heroin's growing problem in conjunction with increasing demand. Holder says both law enforcement and treatment efforts are key in reducing heroin use. 

Although the DEA is aggressively fighting all levels of the supply chain to keep drugs off the streets, he's calling for other federal and local leaders to join the effort. (Via U.S. Department of Justice)

HOLDER: "​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."

In addition, Holder cites the Obama administration's efforts in urging first responders to carry naloxone, a drug administered for heroin overdoses. (Via WZTV)

USA Today reports 17 states have already implemented distribution programs for the lifesaving drug, which is responsible for the reversal of more than 10,000 overdoses since 2001.

As Holder and the DEA focus on stopping heroin abuse, some wonder what this means for marijuana as more states push for its legalization.

NBC suggests the Justice Department's focus on heroin might mean the DEA is paying more attention to lethal drugs as public opinion becomes more accepting of pot.

And according to Businessweek, Holder's statement draws a distinction in how authorities should handle different drugs. As marijuana legalization efforts continue, the U.S. government has to determine how to enforce the drug as it remains illegal on the federal level.

Three other states are expected to pass measures increasing access to naloxone, and 17 have passed "good Samaritan" laws giving immunity from criminal prosecution to those getting medical help for someone who has overdosed.