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Attorney General Calls Attention to Heroin Overdose Crisis

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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.

5 Responses to this article

  1. 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.

  2. Avatar of Joey Tinelli, RN,BS.N.CC.
    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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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”

  5. Avatar of Rodolfo A. Nazario, MD
    Rodolfo A. Nazario, MD / April 14, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Rodolfo Nazario

    After a career in Emergency Medicine which gave a lot of satisfactions saving lives. In 2002 I decided to retire from it and start a private practice. On February 14, 2002 the practice started. I got interested in Addiction Medicine. Became the Medical Director of Restorative Management Corporation, an Out Patient Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Program.

    It is a great satisfaction to turn drug addicts into productive persons, to be able to participate in turning their life to become good and responsible citizens.

    This terrible disease is epidemic now. Kids in high school are not trying marihuana, now they try opiates, drug family that is extremely addicting.

    Now because of a new NYS law where all the controlled substance prescription are registered on the internet the addicts cannot get prescriptions before the 30 days of their prescription. Due to this law there are no pills on the streets. The only thing they can find is heroin and this has caused multiple overdoses with death of young kids. We still don’t know how many new cases of AIDS, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C will this new law cause.

    It is very sad to see young kids from nice families like ours with this disease. It is a disease it is not a crime to be addicted. The criminal, who makes his living out of others people misery, destroys families and lives, needs to be eliminated. They are the worst and most deplorable human being.

    In their treatment I use a medication that blocks the receptor in their brain that needs the opiates. Due to this blockage the patient won’t have any cravings nor withdrawal symptoms that are so bad that they will do things against their principles.

    This addicts remind me of Dr. Jeckill and Mr.Hyde.

    We, by law cannot have more than 100 patients on this wonderful medication but we are allowed to have X number of patient in the addictive opiates. It should be the other way around.

    Anyway, the greatest satisfaction is when a parent embraces you and tells you: “THANKS FOR GIVING ME BACK MY SON OR DAUGHTER”. God Bless this kids and their families. I am very proud of them.

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