Sarasota, Manatee warn citizens of synthetic-laced heroin

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office is warning citizens about synthetic-laced heroin after several recent overdoses on the Suncoast.
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office is warning citizens about synthetic-laced heroin after several recent overdoses on the Suncoast.

Heroin and fentanyl overdoses are plaguing Manatee and Sarasota counties again.

The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office is warning citizens about synthetic-laced heroin because of another spike in overdoses on the Suncoast.

The sheriff's office has responded to 14 overdoses since July 1, two of which were fatal. According to a release, investigators warn users that heroin seized locally has traces of fentanyl and carfentanil, a synthetic opioid drug with nearly 10,000 times the potency of morphine.

And in Manatee, sheriff’s spokesman Dave Bristow noted a trend Friday of an increased use of fentanyl stemming from overdose calls.

“A lot of our overdoses, we’re learning, are not heroin. They’re fentanyl,” Bristow said. “It just seems like the recent surge we’ve had, a good amount of those, are just fentanyl where before a lot of them would be heroin mixed with fentanyl or just heroin. Now, we’re finding people are just using fentanyl, especially the fatalities that we’re having.”

As of 5:30 p.m. Friday, there were 12 overdose calls, according to the Manatee County Emergency Communications Center. A woman at the center said there could be more because some 911 callers don’t say right away that it’s an overdose.

In an effort to bring awareness to the deadly drug, the sheriff's office is reissuing a public safety announcement, originally launched in August 2015, about the dangers of heroin.

“Because much of the heroin seized locally contains fentanyl or other deadly substances, you’re more likely to die from an overdose or suffer severe brain damage,” a narrator says in the video.

In light of the recent trend, the video encourages people to call 911 if someone overdoses, which is a reference to the Good Samaritan law. The PSA also directs those struggling with addiction to resources for help, according to the release. The 30-second PSA is viewable on the agency web site, YouTube channel and social media pages.

In late June, the Bradenton Herald reported that heroin-related calls and deaths had been declining in Manatee County the past several months, after a two-year epidemic saw Manatee become the epicenter of the crisis in Florida. But in July, area law enforcement again report a significant spike in heroin-related cases.

In a written statement, Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight said the warning is a “reminder for the public that these deadly drugs have made their way into our community and can have deadly effects.

“This is a serious problem and one that we don't take lightly,” Knight added.