DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - It was last November that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a shocking report: It indicated that over 100,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. occurred during the 12-month period ending in April 2021. That's an increase of almost 30% from the same time a year before.
Three out of every four Americans who died during that period were killed by synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl — and those numbers are continuing to rise. That has law enforcement in Central Florida very concerned.
"We are seeing fentanyl in everything – it’s in marijuana, it’s in cocaine, it’s in methamphetamine," explained Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood.
The numbers are astonishing as fentanyl continues to be a problem in local communities as well. Sheriffs across Florida said some powerful and deadly drugs are coming to our state through the border.
"They stamp their product, so we know that we’re seeing that stuff in Central Florida, and it’s coming out of Mexico," Sheriff Chitwood added.
Chitwood and Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly joined others in McAllen, Texas recently to be briefed by members of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the United States Customs and Border Protection about the Mexican drug cartels that are said to be smuggling fentanyl into our county – the "Gulf Cartel" being one of the biggest culprits.
"Whatever gets through the border is ending up in some city or county in America," said Sheriff Staly. "That’s why every city and county in America is a ‘border state.’"
Chitwood and Staly said agents working the border are drastically understaffed. Sheriff Chitwood said McAllen has only 35 Homeland Security agents investigating the cartel while Volusia County alone has 46 narcotic detectives by comparison.
"When you have a border that is so porous it’s like just bring it home because a little bit that they lose it’s just a cost of doing business," he said.
While the war on drugs rages on at the border, the fight continues in Florida communities. Some law enforcement agencies now investigate every overdose as a first-degree murder as they work to hold dealers responsible.
"We try to backtrack and charge a dealer with murder because they know what they’re selling," Sheriff Chitwood said.
Deaths linked to fentanyl among adolescents between the ages of 14 and 18 have skyrocketed year over year, representing 77% of adolescent deaths among teens last year alone, according to a study released in April by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Some information taken from FOXNews.com.