There are "early indications" that deaths associated with heroin and opiate abuse are beginning to go down in Massachusetts, State Police Superintendent Tim Alben said during a press conference in Danvers to announce a major drug trafficking bust.
Alben attributed the movement since December to various strategies -- awareness, prevention, treatment and law enforcement -- targeting the problem and suggested that information might be available from public health officials later this week about a "downward trajectory."
"The idea that it is going down is a positive indicator," Alben said during a press conference broadcast by the State Police on the social media app Periscope.
Alben said the 30 to 35 pounds of heroin seized in connection with an operation in Lawrence was worth several millions dollars and was part of an "enormous" distribution network. He ticked off other recent cases in Massachusetts that led to arrests of alleged heroin traffickers, but warned "we're not going to arrest our way out of the heroin-opiate problem," emphasizing the importance of drug treatment.
Attorney General Maura Healey said it was time to update state laws to add a criminal charge of trafficking Fentanyl. Drug traffickers are adding the chemical to heroin, she said, or just selling it and telling buyers that it is heroin. Fentanyl is "more potent and more deadly" than heroin, the attorney general said.
Alben called Fentanyl a "highly highly toxic and dangerous chemical" and said officers are warned not to handle it without wearing gloves or "some kind of barrier protection."
Asked about the source of the drugs, Alben said most are coming into the United States from outside the country.