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Deaths from heroin, pain pills called 'urgent,' growing' crisis

| Monday, March 10, 2014, 6:54 p.m.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the rise in deaths from overdoses of heroin and prescription painkillers are an “urgent and growing public health crisis,” in outlining a series of efforts by the Justice Department to combat the epidemic.

At a time of growing public acceptance of marijuana use, Holder is drawing attention to the negative consequences of heroin. In a video released early on Monday, Holder said heroin overdose deaths increased by 45 percent 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.”

Holder added, “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 the DEA is expanding its education programs for pharmacists and doctors, and urging first responders to carry naloxone, a drug that when administered quickly, can restore breathing to somebody suffering from a heroin overdose.

In Western Pennsylvania, authorities blamed a mix of heroin and the powerful painkiller fentanyl for causing two dozen drug overdose deaths this year. Some of the stamp bags of the combinations were labeled “Theraflu” and “Income Tax” and “Bud Ice.”Most of the deaths occurred between Jan. 4 and Jan. 29.

The victims predominantly were white men between the ages of 24 and 51, but the group had women and minorities, and city-dwellers and suburbanites.

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