In this Feb. 14, 2012 photo, a Pakistani drug addict turns around holding a needle and syringe after injecting himself with a dose of heroin in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. The flourishing opium production in Afghanistan has resulted in more than 4 million addicts in Pakistan. Some of the youngest end up in mud-walled rooms being drilled in extreme Muslim doctrine by the Taliban who roam relatively freely in Peshawar. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

Justice Department Wants Workers To Carry Heroin Antidote

U.S. law enforcement agents who deal with heroin addicts may begin carrying the drug naloxone to reverse overdoses, the Justice Department said on Thursday, responding to a surge in heroin use in the United States.

Attorney General Eric Holder said he urged federal law enforcement agencies to identify those workers and determine whether they should be trained in how to administer the medication.

The move will “pave the way for certain federal agents – such as emergency medical personnel – to begin carrying the potentially life-saving drug,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

Naloxone is a drug that stops opioids such as heroin from reaching receptors in the brain, which may reverse an overdose.

Holder said in March his agency was stepping up efforts to stem sharp increases in deadly heroin overdoses, trafficking in the drug and abuse of prescription narcotics at the root of what he called an “urgent public health crisis.”

More than 16,000 people die each year from prescription opioid overdose in the United States, according to the Food and Drug Administration.