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Heroin overdoses surge in Orange County

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office is warning about a surge in heroin overdoses.

There have been more than 70 heroin overdoses between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15 of this year. That’s 2½ times as many as the year before.

Captain Carlos Espinosa works narcotics with the sheriff’s office. He said officers are seeing more fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that’s 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.

“We are seeing more fentanyl and some of the other different synthetic forms of fentanyl mixed in with the heroin,” Espinosa said. “Some of it is even straight fentanyl being sold as heroin. That’s what makes it more deadly, obviously.”

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office responded to more than 100 overdose calls in the first six weeks of the year. And 70 of those calls were for heroin overdoses.

“We’re focusing our efforts on the people supplying it,” Espinosa said. “I’m not so much interested in arresting a user, an addict. That person’s a victim. Even though they’re committing a crime, we look at it that way.”

Orange County deputies starting carrying overdose reversal drugs last year, and have used them 55 times. Deputies say that’s one reason that deaths from overdose are down.

Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya works for WMFE in Orlando. He started writing for newspapers in high school. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe worked as a reporter for the Orlando Business Journal. He comes from a family of health care workers.