Heroin Overdoses Continue To Increase In Middlesex County
February 5th, 2015

Heroin Overdoses Continue To Increase In Middlesex County

WOBURN – Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and Lowell Police Superintendent William Taylor are issuing a warning to heroin users and to individuals who know heroin users that recently received information indicates that heroin usage is even more dangerous than ever before.

Toxicology results from autopsies on several drug overdose victims in Middlesex County over the past few weeks have revealed that the deceased had taken fentanyl-laced heroin. Fentanyl is an opioid, which may be thirty times more powerful than heroin.

“We have worked aggressively to combat the spread of the opiate epidemic and to prevent drug overdoses. We have, however, similar to what has been occurring across Massachusetts and the country, seen a rise in these numbers,” said District Attorney Ryan. “One frightening development leading to deaths is the increase in the number of doses of heroin laced with other chemicals creating a mixture that is far more deadly than pure heroin.”

District Attorney Ryan says collaborations among area agencies have been effective, but drug overdose deaths continue to escalate due to the sheer volume of drugs available and the low cost for many illegal drugs.

Lowell Police Superintendent William Taylor added, “Tragically, many persons buying heroin are unknowingly receiving fentanyl, a much more potent and deadly substance.”

Just 36 days into the new year, Middlesex County has already seen 12 deaths from drug overdoses.

Most recently, on Wednesday, February 4, Tewksbury police officers responded to a 911 call and found a man deceased in his home of an apparent heroin overdose with a syringe, plastic baggie ties, a spoon, and other drug paraphernalia next to the body.

Drug overdose deaths this year in Middlesex County have occurred in many communities in addition to Tewksbury, including, Belmont, Billerica, Hudson, Lexington, Lowell, Malden, and North Reading. In one incident in Lowell, on January 26, three women were found by police officers inside a residence after taking heroin; two of the women were found deceased and the third woman was transported to the hospital.

District Attorney Ryan has taken a number of pro-active steps to address this issue, including the formation of the Lowell Opiate Task Force. District Attorney Ryan and State Senator Eileen Donoghue, (D), Lowell, founded the Task Force to take a community-wide approach to preventing overdose deaths. Officials from area law-enforcement agencies, health-care providers, educational institutions, human-service non-profits, and lawmakers meet on a regular basis to discuss how to best share their knowledge and collaboratively work on drug prevention initiatives in the Greater Lowell region.

District Attorney Ryan also brought together police, firefighters, and emergency medical professionals for a workshop, “Another Chance: Reversing the Effects of Opiate Overdoses.” First Responders were given in-depth medical and educational information so that they would have the skill to administer Nasal Naloxone when responding to drug overdose calls. Nasal Naloxone is a safe treatment that reverses the effects of an overdose and, when administered properly, it can mean the difference between life and death. Following the training workshop last year, the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office provided a total of 540 units of Nasal Narcan to cities and towns, free of charge.

In Middlesex County, there were an estimated 80 drug-related overdose deaths in 2013, including 33 that were attributed to heroin, up from 65 drug-related overdose deaths in 2012, including 20 attributed to heroin. Year-end figures for 2014 reflect an alarming trend: 146 drug-related overdose deaths, including 103 attributed to heroin.

In addition to drug overdose prevention efforts, District Attorney Ryan has collaborated with elected leaders to propose legislation to address the use of a new synthetic chemical drug, NBOIMe – often referred to as “N-bomb.” N-bomb is illegal under federal drug laws but not yet classified as a controlled substance in Massachusetts. Police have seen evidence that the drug is being used by teenagers involved in crimes and experts believe many young adults are unaware of how lethal this hallucinogen is and unaware that the synthetic chemical drug can cause death. State Representative Cory Atkins has submitted a proposed bill that would amend state drug law to include three forms of NBOMe as Class B Substances. The proposed amendment would enable police to seize the drug when it is found in someone’s possession and to investigate distribution, which is often arranged via online transactions.