Fentanyl overtakes heroin as the most deadly opioid in Massachusetts

While heroin-related deaths declined over the first three quarters of 2016, overdose deaths related to the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than morphine, surged, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Toxicology screenings following opioid related deaths in Massachusetts for 2016 detected fentanyl in 74 percent of cases. Heroin was identified in 54 percent of the fatal overdoses. According to the state department of public health, there have been 1,005 confirmed opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts in the first nine months of 2016, with as many as 470 likely cases still under investigation. The rate of opioid-related deaths is on pace to break 2015's record-setting mark of 1,747 opioid overdose deaths.

"While we continue to see a decline in the number of deaths involving heroin, the data released today are a sobering reminder of why the opioid crisis is so complex and a top public health priority," said Marylou Sudders, secretary of MDPH's Health and Human Services. "This is a crisis that touches every corner of our state and we will continue our urgent focus expanding treatment access."

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