Heroin, an 'urgent public health crisis' threatens Americans

Drugs are prepared to shoot intravenously by a user addicted to heroin in Vermont, Feb. 6, 2014.
Drugs are prepared to shoot intravenously by a user addicted to heroin in Vermont, Feb. 6, 2014.

Attorney General Eric Holder in a video message released by the Justice Department spoke out on heroin addiction and its rising number of deaths on Monday.

In the video, Holder said the number of heroin overdose deaths rose by 45% between 2006 and 2010.

“When confronting the problem of substance abuse, it makes sense to focus attention on the most dangerous types of drugs,” Holder said. “And right now, few substances are more lethal than prescription opiates and heroin.”

The announcement signals that the Drug Enforcement Administration may be shifting its attention to fighting more lethal drugs, as public opinion on marijuana shifts towards legalization.

The message follows weeks of trend stories on rising numbers of heroin-related deaths, on the heels of the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died of a heroin overdose.

“Addiction to heroin and other opiates — including certain prescription painkillers—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.

Holder emphasized the DEA’s aggressive war on drugs and pushed first responders to carry naloxone, a drug that can save the life of someone suffering from a heroin overdose.