BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts had the second-highest number of seizures of the powerful narcotic fentanyl of any state in 2014.
That’s according to a new advisory by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Drug Enforcement Administration looking at increases in fentanyl confiscations and overdose fatalities related to the drug.
Fentanyl is a synthetic and short-acting opioid analgesic and is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It’s sometimes mixed with heroin or cocaine, sometimes without the knowledge of the person taking it.
The advisory found there were 630 reported seizures of fentanyl in Massachusetts last year, second only to Ohio, which had more than 1,200.
The CDC advisory warned that fentanyl “poses a significant danger to public health workers, first responders, and law enforcement personnel that may unwittingly come into contact with it either by absorbing through the skin or accidental inhalation of airborne powder.”
The agency made a series of recommendation to increase surveillance of possible fentanyl outbreaks, including testing drug samples seized or collected by law enforcement or found at the scene of death.
State Attorney General Maura Healey is pushing a bill that would create the new state crime of trafficking in fentanyl for amounts greater than 10 grams. Under existing law, drug traffickers can only be charged with manufacturing, dispensing or possessing fentanyl.
Those convicted of the new crime would face a punishment of up to 20 years in prison.
Healey on Tuesday pointed to the CDC advisory to urge lawmakers to pass the bill.
“Fentanyl is a highly potent and deadly opioid, and its use is growing exponentially in our state,” she said in a statement.
The House has approved the bill and sent it to the Senate.
Massachusetts has confirmed 1,089 opioid overdose deaths in 2014. That represents a 63 percent increase since 2012 (668) and a 20 percent increase since 2013 (911).
Earlier this month, a Woburn man was indicted in connection with a major drug operation in which authorities seized more than 2,500 grams of pure fentanyl, more than 900 pills, two guns and more than $73,000 in cash, Healey said.
On Monday, a Natick man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to selling heroin and white heroin — heroin laced with fentanyl or straight fentanyl — to addicts, one of whom died after overdosing, according to U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz.
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