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DEA New England: Opioids are 'weapons of mass destruction'

Massachusetts State Police Col. Richard McKeon reported there have been 634 suspected opioid-linked deaths so far in 2017. (WJAR)

Massachusetts State Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration's New England division had a plain and simple message during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

"Synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil are manufactured death," DEA New England special agent in charge Michael Ferguson said.

Massachusetts State Police Col. Richard McKeon reported there have been 634 suspected opioid-linked deaths so far in 2017.

"If anything can be likened to a weapon of mass destruction and what it does for a community, it's fentanyl," Ferguson said. "(It's) 50 times more potent than heroin (and) 100 times more potent than morphine."

McKeon reported 12 samples of carfentanil have been discovered in Massachusetts this year. The opioid is used to sedate large animals such as elephants. It is 10,000 times more potent than morphine. Officials seized samples in Brockton, Hanson, Abington, Rockland, Kingston, Dedham, Boston and Lawrence.

The drug is also a danger to those responding, McKeon said. The organization will purchase more protective gear, which includes goggles and gloves.

Police said they hope communities will come together to help those suffering from addiction.

In Attleboro, the Greater Attleboro Recovery Network is sponsoring a candelight vigil to remember those who lost their battle with addiction and mental illness Wednesday evening.

The vigil will be held at 6 p.m. at the Murray Unitarian Universalist Church. After the vigil, clinicians with Arbour Fuller Hospital will team up with other agencies for the first-ever "You Are Not Alone" drop-in center meeting. The center is a collaboration between the Attleboro, Norton and Mansfield Police Departments.

"That night we can get someone transported to a detox center," Arbour Fuller community relations coordinator Carrie Ballou said.

The drop-in center is anonymous and loved ones are welcome to join.

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