As the rate of heroin use and heroin-related deaths surges nationally, cops could be playing an even more central role in preventing overdoses. Officers who routinely deal with heroin-related cases might be required to carry an anti-overdose drug with them, according to a plan announced by the Justice Department Thursday.
Attorney General Eric Holder urged federal law enforcement agencies to carry with them the drug naloxone, which can impede a fatal heroin overdose by essentially jumpstarting the nervous and respiratory systems. It can be administered by injection or nasally and is relatively simple to use.
"I am confident that expanding the availability of naloxone has the potential to save the lives, families, and futures of countless people across the nation," Holder said in a statement.
According to the Justice Department, more than 40,000 Americans die every year from drug overdoses — fewer people die every year from gunshot wounds and car crashes — and more than half of them overdose on opioids such as heroin and prescription pain medication like oxycodone. The rate of heroin use is rapidly rising throughout the country.
The rise in heroin use is an 'epidemic' that 'knows no boundaries.'
Acting Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli called the rise in heroin use an "epidemic" that "knows no boundaries."
Seventeen states plus Washington, DC already have changed their laws to allow for increased access to naloxone. Vermont, which is experiencing one of the steepest increases in heroin use, is one of them. Chief Steve McQueen of the Winooski, Vermont Police Department said he supports Holder's proposal, but told local news outlet NECN that it was not a "one-size-fits-all" solution. Vermont State Troopers have reported successfully reviving people by using naloxone.
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