Heroin use declared public health crisis
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder brought attention to the nationwide surge in heroin abuse in a video message posted earlier this week, calling it “an urgent and growing health crisis”.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, fatal heroin overdoses increased 45 percent from 2006 to 2010 and the numbers are believed to still be on the rise.
“Addiction to heroin and other opiates 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 said. “Confronting this crisis will require a combination of enforcement and treatment.”
In addition to targeting violent traffickers who bring heroin into the U.S., the Attorney General said the government is urging more law enforcement personnel to carry an anti-overdose medication called naloxone (Narcan). Administered through a nasal spray or injection, the controversial drug can prevent overdose by stopping the effects of heroin and other opiates.
Use of Narcan has resulted in more than 10,000 overdose reversals across the U.S. since 2001, according to Holder. Despite this, only 17 states and the District of Columbia have amended their laws to increase access to the drug, the Attorney General says.
Leaders in Chicago’s neighboring DuPage County – where one heroin death has occurred every 8.5 days over the last year and a half – armed their sheriff’s department with Narcan in January. They hope to have their additional 1,240 officers trained and equipped with the drug by May, according to their County Health Department website.
“It is common for deputies to arrive before the paramedics, so having trained deputies who are able to administer the Narcan to someone overdosing, could potentially save a loved one” DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba in a news release.
For more information on the Dupage Narcan Program, please visit: http://www.dupagehealth.org/news/DNP.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.