SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - After years of decline, local law enforcement is seeing an uptick in opioid overdoses and deaths this year.
In Manatee County, deputies said there have been 494 overdoses and 57 of those people died. In Sarasota County, deputies are reporting 69 overdoses this year and 10 deaths.
Focusing on the numbers from the summer alone, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office said there’s been a big spike in overdoses compared to last summer. From June to August of 2019, there were 26 overdoses where six people died. Last summer, there were only 13 overdoses with no deaths.
“It’s whack-a-mole," said P.J. Brooks, vice president of Outpatient and Youth Services with First Step of Sarasota.
Working at a Sarasota addiction center shows him first hand the affects drugs have in the area. Brooks said if it’s not one drug, it’s another.
“Here’s the thing, we still get lost in the drug," said Brooks. "It pushed it from the pharmacies and the doctor’s offices to the street with the heroin and Fentanyl and now we’re seeing a major increase and spike in resurgence and cocaine and crystal meth is in our community very heavily.”
Statistics from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office agree. While opioids are still a concern, deputies say methamphetamine is much more prominent in the county now. So far, there’s been a total of 69 overdoses this year. This is a slight uptick from the 65 overdoses during this time last year.
Broadening the scope, Florida legislators say prescription opioid misuse is currently the number one public health threat, both nationally and in the state.
“Our state is on the front line of the opioid epidemic," said Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody. "Our neighbors, friends, our family members are at risk.”
Moody just launched “Dose of Reality” - a new resource to help Floridians stop opioid abuse. The website includes details on responding to an opioid overdose, proper pain management and how to prevent misuse, which is an area Brooks said the communities should be focusing their efforts.
“Unless we look at the addiction, the reason why people are choosing to use the multiple drugs, they’re gonna find the path of least resistance,” Brooks said. “If I can’t get ‘A,’ well I still want to get high and 'B' is available, I’m gonna use B.”
Though this is still a severe problem in the state of Florida, it’s important to note the progress that’s been made in Sarasota County. The sheriff’s office said in 2017 alone, there were 247 overdoses. That’s 178 more than the 69 there have been in 2019 so far.