Opioid and heroin epidemic continues to kill in Sarasota

Opioid and heroin epidemic continues to kill in Sarasota

On the eve of a conference to underscore the city’s growing opioid epidemic, the Sarasota Police Department received bad news. Yet another overdose. The total now came to 44 in under three months.

“This is one of the most serious things we’re facing in this community,” Lieutenant Randy Boyd said. “In all my years as a police officer, I’ve never seen anything like this.”

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Dealers are lacing heroin and cocaine with a potentially deadly combination of drugs, including Carfentanil. The Schedule 2 controlled substance is often passed off as heroin, but it’s 5,000 times more potent than street-level heroin. Carfentanil is used as a tranquilizer for large animals such as horses and elephants, and can be bought from overseas at a rate cheaper than pure heroin or cocaine.

There’s no way to tell the difference just by looking at the drugs, but the effects can be lethal. Eight deaths have been recorded in the city of Sarasota since July 1.

Carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, a synthetic drug of the same family that has been linked to numerous fatal overdoses across the nation.

“The body relaxes so much beneath the influence of Carfentanil that the person stops breathing altogether,” Sarasota County Fire Department Chief Carson Sanders said.

Sanders, an EMS Operations Division Chief, said that paramedics have had to administer up to 12 milligrams of Narcapan, a so-called opiate antidote that can reverse the effects of an overdose, just to get a response from individuals overdosing on Carfentanil-laced drugs.

Usually, 0.5 to 2 milligrams is enough for other drugs, Carson said.

Police say the epidemic is cutting across demographics, and emphasized that the community must come together and be especially vigilant. They added that the primary objective is to get these drugs off the street, rather than to criminalize addicts.

“We’re not going to arrest our way out of this issue,” Lieutenant Boyd said. “This is going to take us all.”

In August, the department arrested Darryl R. Hall, who they believe to be a major distributor of Carfentanil-laced heroin.

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