US governor signs legislation to combat heroin epidemic

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New York: New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a legislation to combat the growing heroin epidemic across the state, a media report said Tuesday.

Last week, Cuomo and legislative leaders reached an agreement on multiple bills that include new programmes and insurance reforms to improve treatment options for individuals suffering from heroin and opioid (psychoactive chemical) addiction, Xinhua reported.

The bills also include measures to strengthen penalties to crack down on the distribution of illegal drugs, provisions to ensure the proper and safe use of naloxone (overdose antidote) and support for enhanced public awareness campaigns in all public places including schools and colleges to prevent drug abuse.

"Heroin has become a public health crisis in communities across the nation, but today New York state is taking a stand to turn the tide on this epidemic," Cuomo said.

Earlier this month, Cuomo announced a series of new initiatives including the addition of 100 experienced investigators to the state police community narcotics enforcement team and to make supplies of naloxone available to all first responder units in the state.

Heroin is a highly addictive narcotic. Fatal overdose, the contraction of Hepatitis C and/or HIV and addiction and dependence are among a plethora of negative side effects that can result from heroin use.

Across the US, heroin abuse has been increasing at dangerously high rates in recent years. In 2013, there were 89,269 cases of heroin and prescription opiate treatment admissions in New York state alone, an increase from 63,793 in 2004.

Heroin users in the US are normally aged between 18 to 24 years.

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