Heroin antidote Naloxone offers US hope against overdose

"To call heroin an epidemic is an understatement," says Camden, New Jersey, Police Chief Scott Thomson.

"Our cops were out on the street and they didn't have any tools to help the people there."

But in recent years, Camden police officers have joined police in a growing number of cities across the US who carry a heroin "antidote" called Naloxone.

"Now, first responders when they get to the scene and there's an individual there who is unresponsive, we're able to administer it... and get them breathing," Mr Thomson says.

Twenty-five states have approved the use of the drug Naloxone, either as an inhalant or an injection. Police officers use it on the street when they encounter an overdose, and family members of addicts have their own kits to try to prevent death in the home.

The new "antidote" works by reversing the effects of opioid drugs in the body. It lasts for 30-45 minutes, giving emergency medical workers enough time to reach an overdose victim.

Though some critics say the drug enables addicts, it has become adopted by cities and states as heroin use has surged in recent years. In the US, heroin overdoses increased 45% between 2006-2010, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The BBC's Annie Waldman went to Camden to talk to community members who are promoting the use of Naloxone - and one mother who used the drug to save her daughter's life.

BBC News