The Massachusetts State Police crime lab this year has identified a dozen samples of carfentanil, an extremely deadly synthetic opioid considered to be a serious danger to the public, the head of the State Police said Tuesday.
Colonel Richard McKeon said the lab had certified the presence of the substance in three samples seized in Brockton, two in Boston, two in Lawrence, and in samples from Hanson, Abington, Rockland, Kingston, and Dedham. The discovery is “frightening to all of us.”
The drug is about 100 times more potent than fentanyl, a drug plaguing the streets that, in turn, is about 50 times more potent than heroin, officials say.
McKeon said the crime lab had detected fentanyl in 2,300 samples so far this year.
So far this year, State Police detectives have responded to 634 suspected opioid deaths in the cities and towns where State Police investigate deaths, McKeon said.
That number “seems to be on pace” with 2016, McKeon said, when, by year’s end, detectives investigated a total of 877 opioid deaths. In 2015, the total was 756, he said.
State Police investigate deaths in every community in the state, except for several larger cities, including Boston.
“Opioid trafficking and use remain prevalent throughout the United States and in Massachusetts,” McKeon said.
Michael Ferguson, special agent in charge of the Boston office of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, said fentanyl and carfentanil are “manufactured death, plain and simple.”
Citing a salt or sugar packet as an example, Ferguson said carfentanil is so powerful, “It only takes 2 milligrams and it’s lights out for an individual. We’re talking about couple of grains of salt or sugar.”
The possible presence of deadly substances represent “an increased hazard to first responders,” said State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey, noting that his office’s hazardous materials division was a resource for law enforcement and other first responders.
McKeon said protective gear, including masks, gloves, and goggles, would be made available to all State Police officers.
“We’re going to make sure that every person who wears this uniform has access to it,” he said. “We want to ensure that we have the proper equipment for our officers.”Martin Finucane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.