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Attorney General Eric Holder vows to fight rising heroin deaths

By Shimon Prokupecz, CNN
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Mon March 10, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Heroin overdoses increased 45% from 2006 to 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder says
  • The Justice Department will work to reduce the number of deaths, he announces
  • Keeping prescriptions pills away from non-medical users part of the plan, he says

Washington (CNN) -- Concerned over the rise in heroin overdose deaths, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is vowing to increase efforts to fight what he called an "urgent public health crisis."

In a video released Monday, Holder said the increased efforts will not only include law enforcement activity, but also treatment and efforts to keep people off the deadly drug.

"It's clear that opiate addiction is an urgent -- and growing -- public health crisis. And that's why Justice Department officials, including the (Drug Enforcement Administration), and other key federal, state, and local leaders, are fighting back aggressively," Holder said, adding that heroin overdoses increased by 45 percent between 2006 and 2010.

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One of the main efforts, Holder said, was to attack the problem by combating highly addictive prescription pills, which studies show often lead to heroin use.

"With DEA as our lead agency, we have adopted a strategy to attack all levels of the supply chain to prevent pharmaceutical controlled substances from getting into the hands of non-medical users," Holder said.

As an example of the growing problem, the Justice Department says there was a 320% increase in heroin seized along the southwest U.S. border from 2008 through 2013.

The attorney general is also asking that first responders be equipped with a overdose-reversing drug called Naloxone. Parts of New Jersey and New York State already use the drug, which is injected into patients suffering from heroin overdoses.

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