NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – 136 people have died from opioid overdoses this year in Massachusetts. “It’s a deadly game of Russian roulette,” said Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan.
Addicts never know if their next fix, will be their last. Dealers are adding the synthetic opiate, fentanyl, in heroin, making it 50 to 100 times more potent. According to new data from the state Department of Public Health, it’s caused 66 percent of this year’s 136 opioid overdose deaths.
Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan said it’s a problem that’s only going to worsen. “We’re very limited on what we can do because this ingredient of synthetic opioids, which is fentanyl, is being added early in the distribution trail so the best thing we can do is just tell people really go get treatment,” DA Sullivan told 22News.
Dealers are adding fentanyl to heroin to get people addicted to higher doses. If caught, a major drug trafficker could face up to a 15 year minimum mandatory jail sentence.
DA Sullivan said Holyoke is the hub of heroin distribution in western Massachusetts. He said in his jurisdiction, they’re looking for heroin dealers traveling up I-91 to Vermont and also trying to prevent the spread of opiates in small communities. The stigma around addiction is changing. DA Sullivan said opioid task forces are taking dealers off the streets and getting addicts to treatment beds, not jail cells.
Dr. Robert Roose is a leader in the fight against the epidemic in western Massachusetts as the VP and Chief Medical Officer at the Sisters of Providence Behavioral Health Hospital in Holyoke. He said, “Increase access to life saving treatment using methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone, as well as have widespread availability of naloxone, I think that we will start to shift this trend in the right direction.”
Dr. Roose said it will take a true collaboration among law enforcement, harm reduction agencies, addicts and health workers to save more lives.
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