U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is calling the increase in heroin-related deaths in the United States an "urgent public health crisis."
Holder said addiction to opiates and heroin is affecting Americans in all states and from "every background and walk of life."
The number of heroin overdose deaths rose by 45 percent from 2006 to 2010.
Holder is urging first responders to carry with them the drug naxolone, which can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose if administered quickly.
He noted that 17 states and the District of Columbia have amended their laws to increase access to naloxone, resulting in more than 10,000 overdose reversals since 2001.
Holder said federal law enforcement is working to address the problem, but more work is needed on education, prevention, and treatment.