Some people in Massachusetts are prescribed a medication called fentanyl in the hospital. After becoming addicted to the powerful painkiller, people may seek out fentanyl from illicit sources. Fentanyl is believed to be 50 times stronger than heroin, so drug dealers will sometimes mix fentanyl into a batch of heroin to make it stronger.

A study by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health found that 75 percent of overdose deaths in the state involved fentanyl. Law enforcement agencies believe that the synthetic opioid is produced in Chinese labs and then mixed with heroin in Mexico before it reaches the United States. They also believe that much of the drug trafficking activities involving fentanyl occur over the internet and through the mail system.

According to a spokesperson for the Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl can be produced for about $3,000 to $4,000 per kilo. After the drug is turned into pills or mixed with heroin, one kilo of fentanyl may yield almost $1.5 million. Typical drug users who are not involved in the production or sale of heroin may have no idea how much fentanyl has been mixed into the drugs that they buy. However, doctors say that a few grains of pure fentanyl can be fatal.

A person who has been charged with drug possession may be able to argue for leniency by proving that their actions were motivated by a drug addiction. An attorney may help a person in this situation to prove that they became addicted to painkillers in the hospital and they had never sought out recreational drugs before that. Some defendants are able to negotiate reduced charges by agreeing to complete a drug treatment program.