DEA Official Blames Fentanyl-Heroin Mixture from Mexico for Recent Fatal Overdoses

By Victoria Kim 07/07/14

The fentanyl-laced dope plaguing the northeastern United States is being made south of the border, according to officials.

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Nearly all of the heroin involved in the fatal overdoses that have plagued New England in recent months is cut with the painkiller fentanyl before crossing the Mexico-U.S. border, according to the head of the New England division of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

In an interview with The Boston Globe last week, acting special agent Michael Ferguson detailed the journey of the heroin-fentanyl concoction from south of the border to New England. Heroin produced in Colombia is shipped to Mexico, where authorities believe drug cartels add fentanyl, a synthetic opioid which is 30 times more powerful than heroin. The drug is then smuggled across the border to traffickers in the U.S., some of whom travel more than 2,000 miles from New England to the Southwest border for the drug.

There is a possibility that some fentanyl is added to heroin after it crosses the border into the U.S., but the agency has uncovered little evidence of such a scenario, Ferguson noted. Once the drug reaches New England, it is distributed to dealers in smaller cities, affluent suburbs, and isolated towns, through contacts in virtually every major city and town in New England.

It is plausible that fentanyl production can be traced to Mexico, said John Merrigan, register of probate in Franklin County, which has been hit hard with opioid abuse. He said fentanyl is a prime suspect in the area’s overdoses this year. “I don’t doubt that some of the spike we’ve seen has been related to heroin with some sort of additive,” he said.

More than 200 people in Massachusetts have died from opioid overdoses since November. In Rhode Island, 91 people died of the same cause from the beginning of the year through mid-May. Close to half of the fatal overdoses there were connected to heroin mixed with fentanyl.

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