Feds looking to expand the use of heroin antidote

The Justice Department introduced a new plan Thursday to fight back against a recent rise in heroin overdose deaths.

Attorney General Eric Holder is encouraging federal agents to begin carrying a drug known as naloxone, which is used to reverse the effects of a heroin overdose and potentially save lives. Federal agents would administer the drug to overdose victims.

“The shocking increase in overdose deaths illustrates that addiction to heroin and other opioids, including some prescription painkillers, represents nothing less than a public health crisis,” Holder said. “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 is sending a memo to law enforcements agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, FBI and U.S. Marshals Service, urging them to train agents who deal with heroin addicts to administer naloxone.

According to the Justice Department, 100 people in the U.S. die each day from drug overdoses, which is more than the number of people who die from gunshot wounds or car crashes. In fact, heroin overdoses are on the rise, increasing by 45 percent from 2006 to 2010.

 Holder said more than 10,000 people's lives have been saved since 2001 because of naloxone. 

Holder previously recommended that state and local law enforcement officers carry naloxone, but now he is expanding that to include federal agents.

"In the coming days, I expect each of these critical agencies to determine whether and which members of their teams should be trained to use and carry naloxone in the performance of their duties," Holder said.