The opioid crisis is real. This deadly drug problem is pervasive nationwide, but some people might be surprised to know that it is worse in Massachusetts than what the U.S. as a whole is experiencing.

Many different government agencies and municipalities are taking steps to control the opioid epidemic. This has led to some strict laws related to opioids, including heroin.

Heroin often isn’t a first-line drug

Most people who use heroin have used other drugs previously. In fact, some people who are addicted to heroin were misusing prescription drugs and then made the switch to heroin, which can be less expensive. This shift can be deadly, so lawmakers are trying to curtail the prevalence of heroin in communities.

Even though prescription drugs can lead to heroin use in some people, this doesn’t always occur. In 2016 there were an average of 47.1 opioid prescriptions written in Massachusetts per 100 people. This put the state as the fifth lowest in the country. Now, compare that to the opioid-related death rate. Massachusetts’ rate was a staggering 29.7 deaths per 100,000 people. The rate for the entire country was 13.3 per 100,000.

Other substances mixed with heroin

Mixing other drugs with heroin can be particularly dangerous. One drug in particular, fentanyl, can cause death quickly. There are also synthetic drugs, including carfentanil, which are even stronger and deadlier.

Massachusetts isn’t the only New England state experiencing a fentanyl crisis. Five out of six states in the region rank in the top 10 for fentanyl-related deaths. These include:

  • New Hampshire: Ranks first with a death rate of 30.3 deaths per 100,000 people
  • Massachusetts: Ranks third with a death rate of 23.5
  • Rhode Island: Ranks seventh with a death rate of 17.8
  • Maine: Ranks eighth with a death rate of 17.3
  • Connecticut: Ranks ninth with a death rate of 14.8

Heroin penalties in Massachusetts

All heroin charges in this state are felonies. At a minimum, you face two years in prison for a first-time possession charge. This increases to 2.5 to 5 years for subsequent offenses.

A first charge for selling heroin comes with two to 10 years in prison. A second charge can land you in prison for five to 15 years. A third offense has a minimum penalty of 40 years.

Heroin trafficking charges are based on the quantity of the drug that was allegedly being transported. Here are those penalties:

  • 14 to 28 grams: Five to 20 years
  • 28 to 100 grams: Seven to 20 years
  • 100 to 200 grams: 10 to 20 years
  • More than 200 grams: 15 to 20 years

Getting legal help

A court will consider numerous factors in sentencing. Your defense representation can have a significant impact on the outcome of your drug case.