Pointing out that more people are dying from drug overdoses than in terror attacks on a daily basis, federal and state authorities in Massachusetts joined forces to warn the public about the gravity of the ongoing opioid epidemic and the dangers of extremely potent drugs becoming prevalent.
"Synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil are manufactured death. Plain and simple," said DEA New England Special Agent in Charge Michael Ferguson. "These poisons are killing at an alarming rate."
Ferguson spoke alongside police and fire officials Tuesday afternoon at an event hosted at the state police headquarters in Framingham, explaining that opioids claim dozens of lives each day across the country.
The DEA has said carfentanil, which is designed to be an elephant tranquilizer, is 100 times more potent than fentanyl and about 10,000 times stronger than morphine.
"We all agree about how horrific the San Bernardino and Orlando terrorist incidents were, culminating in the death of 60 innocent individuals," Ferguson said. "But what we are having is equivalent of multiple San Bernardino and Orlando tragedies happening every day across this country. Ninety-one of our neighbors, friends, coworkers and loved ones are dying every day from an opioid-related overdose, with increasing deaths due to fentanyl and fentanyl-related compounds."
State Police Col. Richard McKeon says federal and local law enforcement agencies are targeting "drug trafficking organizations that distribute heroin, fentanyl, and increasingly, carfentanil."
McKeon said the number of suspected overdose deaths state police detectives respond to this year is on track to meet last year's 877 overdose deaths. He added these numbers do not include the cities of Boston, Worcester, Springfield and Pittsfield.
Massachusetts labs confirmed the presence of carfentanil for the first time this year in 12 cases so far. Seven of those samples were seized in the Brockton area. Two more came from Boston and Lawrence each, while one came from Dedham.
"We're taking steps to increase the safety of department members who may come in contact with fentanyl or carfentanil," McKeon said. "We're in the process of purchasing personal protective gear for all road troopers and detectives."
Additionally, K-9 units are being equipped with Narcan, as are other troopers.
McKeon also announced his support for legislation recently filed Gov. Charlie Baker, making changes to the drug schedule to reflect the dangers of newer, more powerful drugs, as well as defining the sale of drugs resulting in death as manslaughter.