Sarasota police ask for help curbing heroin crisis

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SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Sarasota Police Department is pleading with the public to help curb the heroin crisis.

The police department is seeing a sharp spike in the number of heroin cases and they’re seeing more and more cases of drugs laced with Carfentanil, which is elephant tranquilizer. It can be deadly if consumed. Since July 1st, 44 people have overdosed on heroin in Sarasota and eight people have died.

“We are not going to arrest ourselves out of this issue,” said Lt. Randy Boyd. “If you do (Carfentanil) you are going to die,” Boyd added.

Officials are cracking down on dealers but they say there are still a lot of dealers out there. And in many cases, these users don’t even realize they’re taking Carfentanil.

The police department is urging the public to help tackle this crisis.

“This is a community effort. So divided we’re going to fail at this and united we have a chance. So please if you’re not involved in this conversation, get involved in this conversation. Because the police department can’t do it alone,” said Deputy Chief Pat Robinson.

They say there are programs available to help addicts get the help that they need. It was one of these programs that saved the life of John Wayne Thompson.

“I’m very grateful every day that I have now honestly,” said Thompson.

The recovering addict has battled drug addiction for 20 years. It started small, with marijuana and alcohol. But then he constantly sought the next high, eventually getting hooked on heroin.

“When I’m in my addiction, nothing really matters you know?” he said.

“I never thought I would make it to be as old as I am honestly. I thought I would die in my early 20s,” Thompson added.

He said the withdrawal symptoms were so awful that he sought heroin just to feel normal. And plus it helped him fit in.

“I went through different groups of people, and whatever that group of people was doing is what I did. That’s where I felt accepted,” he said.

He spent years going to rehab only to relapse later. He eventually got married and had a son, but that couldn’t bring him happiness. Because of his ongoing addiction his family left him three months ago. He’s now seeking treatment. He said loss is just a way of life in the drug world.

“I’ve lost so many to either jail, prison, death. To the point where it’s almost numb anymore, you lose somebody you go, oh well. It’s going to be someone else next week,” Thompson said.

He said heroin is everywhere and is surprisingly easy to obtain.

“All I gotta do is sit in my front door step honestly. And I can yell out and get something,” he said.

Although he’s shocked at the reports of carfentanil.

“You’re killing your customers, it doesn’t make any sense at all,” Thompson said.

Thompson wants to provide encouragement to addicts. He says they’re not monsters, they’re just sick. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

“There’s hope, there’s another way of life, you don’t have to live in your fears,” he said.

If you know of someone who is trapped in heroin addiction, get them help before it’s too late.

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