Attorney General Calls Attention to Heroin Overdose Crisis

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday called the increase in heroin overdoses “an urgent and growing public health crisis,” The Washington Post reports.

Holder, who spoke in a video message on the Justice Department’s website, said the government is encouraging emergency personnel to carry the overdose antidote naloxone. The government is also targeting violent drug traffickers who bring heroin into the United States, Holder stated. He noted the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has opened more than 4,500 heroin-related investigations since 2011.

“Confronting this crisis will require a combination of enforcement and treatment. The Justice Department is committed to both,” he said in the video.

Naloxone is becoming more widely available nationwide. California greatly expanded availability of the treatment as of January 1. Currently 17 states and the District of Columbia have adopted laws allowing family and friends of people who are addicted to heroin or prescription opioids to have the antidote.

The treatment, sold under the brand name Narcan, has been used for many years by paramedics and doctors in emergency rooms. It is administered by nasal spray. The medication blocks the ability of heroin or opioid painkillers to attach to brain cells. The U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy says it is encouraging police departments to carry Narcan.

In his statement, Holder said the DEA is trying to reduce the supply of heroin “at all levels of the supply chain.” Officials are also working with law enforcement, physicians and others to increase prevention and treatment programs for heroin and prescription opioids. “It’s clear that opiate addiction is an urgent — and growing — public health crisis,” he said.

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    Arlene

    June 19, 2014 at 11:16 PM

    I think parents, caregivers and family member of a heroin addict should be able to have Naloxone (Narcon) on hand…..because….they may be the first person at the scene of an overdose.
    Time is of the essence when saving a person’s life.

    Of course, there would need to be guidelines to obtaining and keeping this drug on hand.
    Proof of Heroin addicted person living with you. (from physician treating them, usually with suboxone or methadone and a course in training.

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    Joey Tinelli, RN,BS.N.CC.

    March 11, 2014 at 2:23 PM

    I feel making Naloxone/NARCAN available to Police Officers besides Paramedics in the field is not a good idea as we all know Yes the Police are usually the 1st to respond in most cases once the addicts get wind of this that the police are carrying Naloxone/NARCAN addicts will start pushing the envelope further which means more overdoes & deaths.

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    Eric Wood, MA LCAC CADAC II

    March 11, 2014 at 12:09 PM

    Unfortunately, solutions to this crisis are complicated. Making Naloxone more available certainly sounds like a great idea, but such harm reduction measures always carry a certain risk. I have addicts in my practice who are already anticipating it will only embolden active users to push the envelope even farther.

    Part of the problem is the difficulty accessing good treatment. Suboxone providers still have a limit of 100 patients per doctor. In our area only a handful of providers are accepting new patients. The understandable safeguard is also preventing some practices from simply remaining viable. The limitation dictates doctors maintain Suboxone treatment as a secondary feature to something else (like a family medicine practice). Addictionologists specializing in Suboxone are hard-pressed to generate enough revenue to provide ancillary services, such as counseling.

    The national opiate epidemic is only going to worsen in the coming months. When Zohydro hits the streets we are likely to see an explosion worse than when Oxy-Contin hit the scene.

    Measures unfolding now, such as those limiting hydrocodone refills, seem too little too late to stem the tide of the epidemic. We are likely to be reeling from the effects of this particular era of addiction history for decades to come.

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    Skip Sviokla MD ABAM

    March 11, 2014 at 12:06 PM

    Any and all attention to the opioid problem is appreciated. We must remember that narcan is only one tool in this fight-and one used at the end of the road. Addicts should be aware that any feeling of security because narcan “might be around” is misplaced. But, again, the more attention to the problem the better.
    Skip Sviokla MD ABAM
    author “From Harvard to Hell…and back”

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