Focus of deadly opioid epidemic shifts to fentanyl

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts officials report more than 2,000 people died from opioid-related overdoses last year, as the focus of the epidemic continues to shift toward the synthetic drug fentanyl.

Quarterly data from the Department of Public Health also shows as many as 479 opioid-related deaths in the first three months of 2017.

Fentanyl was present in nearly 70 percent of the deaths last year, a nearly four-fold increase from just two years earlier.

By contrast, heroin was present in about one of three deaths last year, compared to as many as three of four in 2014.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders calls fentanyl “the killer on the streets right now.”

She also notes fewer deaths related to prescription opioids, a sign that a new prescription monitoring program is working.

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