US & Canada

Eric Holder: Police should carry drugs antidote

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Media captionNew Jersey residents describe how the drug Naloxone is combating heroin deaths

US Attorney General Eric Holder has urged federal law enforcement agencies to equip some of their officers with the heroin overdose antidote naloxone.

Mr Holder called the increase in overdose deaths "nothing less than a public health crisis".

Some state and local law enforcement groups, including the New York Police Department, already require officers to carry the drug while on patrol.

Naloxone works by reversing the effects of opioid drugs for about 30 minutes.

The delay gives emergency medical workers enough time to reach an overdose victim.

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Image caption Local police forces already carry the drug

"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," Mr Holder said while announcing the policy to a law enforcement conference.

Twenty-five states have approved the use of the drug either as an inhalant or an injection.

Though some critics say the drug enables addicts, it has become adopted by cities and states as heroin use surges.

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Image caption A Maryland police officer shows how naloxone is used on overdosing patients

In the US, heroin overdoses increased 45% between 2006-2010, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In New York City, police began carrying $60 (£36) kits, which contain two syringes and two inhalers of naloxone, in May. The kits have a shelf-life of two years.

New York state attorney general Eric Schneiderman said police carrying naloxone in state's Suffolk County saved 563 lives in 2013.

A similar programme in Quincy, Massachusetts, was the first to require officers to carry naloxone. Since autumn 2010, the department's officers have used the treatment 221 times and successfully reversed 211 overdoses.

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