Thursday's front page Eagle story on a heroin sale arrest in North Adams contained an additional twist — the alleged presence of fentanyl in the heroin. That would up the ante for the user, and for the dealer.
Fentanyl is an extremely dangerous drug that traffickers often mix with heroin to increase the latter drug's potency. Police believe the heroin sold in North Adams can be linked to four overdoses, one of which was fatal.
Thursday's arrest came less than three weeks after Governor Charlie Baker signed a law making trafficking in fentanyl a crime in the state. Possession and distribution of fentanyl was already a crime punishable by up to 10 years in jail, but the new law adds another 10 years for trafficking.
The legislation making trafficking in fentanyl a crime was first proposed in August by state Attorney General Maura Healey. Fentanyl is a heavy-duty opioid used to treat long-term pain, and as the attorney general said in an editorial board meeting at The Eagle Thursday, the drug after engineering by those in the drug trade, can be 50 to 100 times as powerful as heroin.
The new law gives prosecutors another weapon in confronting heroin addiction, but as Ms. Healey said Thursday, "I don't think we have seen the zenith" of the opioid epidemic in the county and state. Confronting it, she explained, will require better access to treatment programs, better pain-killer prescription practices by the medical community and help for addicts trying to get their lives back together, as well as criminal prosecutions.
Opioid addiction knows no barriers when it comes to race, income, education or socio-economic status. It is an equal opportunity scourge that requires a comprehensive strategy from a variety of approaches to combat.