The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has already responded to nearly 900 suspected heroin or heroin-related overdoses this year as authorities continue to go after drug dealers and suppliers.
Of those 891 calls, 60 have resulted in deaths, according to a news release.
Last year in Manatee County, on the west coast of Florida, heroin was found at least partially responsible for 45 deaths, while fentanyl was in 77 cases, according to the Medical Examiners Commission’s annual report. Manatee County has been Florida’s epicenter of the heroin and fentanyl epidemic, with dealers cutting fentanyl — a pain killer 100 times more powerful than morphine — into the heroin supply or passing it off as heroin.
This past summer, as another spike of overdoses began to affect the area, investigators discovered that dealers were cutting some heroin supplies with carfentanil — a synthetic form of fentanyl that is 10,000 times more powerful than morphine and is used as a tranquilizer to subdue large, exotic animals such as rhinos, elephants and hippos.
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“The public needs to be aware that fentanyl and carfentanil are being mixed with heroin or sometimes sold as heroin,” sheriff’s office spokesman Dave Bristow said in a statement. “Fentanyl and carfentanil are much stronger than heroin and are attributed to many of the fatal overdoses.”
Detectives with sheriff’s office Special Investigations Division have been working to find the sources of the drugs, haven conducted numerous investigations in recent months focused on illegal drug sales. As a result of the numerous operations, undercover detectives have purchased heroin, fentanyl, cocaine and carfentanil resulting in 79 arrests on 264 charges.