Drugs & Addiction

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Sarasota County is not immune to drug problems, including abuse and misuse of street drugs, prescription medication and other harmful substances, which can also result in overdose deaths. Traditionally, law enforcement approached drug abuse in a one-dimensional manner, but we can't arrest our way out of serious addiction issues.

While this agency will continue to hold accountable criminals and those putting dangerous drugs on our streets, the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office is committed to leveraging community partnerships, placing a priority on education and sharing information on available addiction recovery resources.

Currently, the Suncoast is seeing a surge in heroin addiction and overdose deaths. Much of the heroin seized locally contains Fentanyl, a drug 10 times more potent, or other deadly substances. Users could die from an overdose or suffer severe brain damage, and those who inject these drugs intravenously are at increased risk for HIV and hepatitis.

Someone battling addiction is at risk of overdose if they don't:

  1. Understand their tolerance level and are not aware when it might be lower, such as following rehabilitation treatment or release from jail.
  2. Avoid mixing drugs, including drugs and alcohol.
  3. Or recognize that medications prescribed by a doctor may interact with street drugs.

If you're with someone who overdoses, DON'T be afraid to call 911. Get them the help they need while you still can. You may be protected under Florida law and the 911 Good Samaritan Act. Signs of an overdose include a person who is unconscious and you can't wake them; breathing slowly or not at all; and lips or fingernails that are turning blue.

In addition to the problem with street drugs, SCSO launched a Pharmaceutical Diversion Investigative Unit in 2009 to address an epidemic of addiction and a surge in overdose deaths from prescription drugs. The ultimate goal was to combat prescription fraud, reduce what is known as "doctor shopping" and minimize the number of people who were overdosing on potent pain pills and other legal pharmaceutical drugs that are harmful and often lethal when taken without physician direction and supervision.

From its inception, this was a cooperative effort with local, state and federal agencies, national organizations such as the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI), nonprofit groups such as First Step and Families Against Addictive Drug Abuse (FAADA), the Medical Examiner's Office, the Department of Health, as well as physicians and pharmacists throughout Sarasota County.


To keep controlled substances out of the wrong hands and provide a disposal method that is safe for the environment, the Sheriff's Office has installed permanent drop boxes at its north and south office locations.


Community members can help by reporting anyone who might be selling illegal drugs or diverting legal prescription medication for illegal purposes. Click here to submit a tip.


To contact the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office Pharmaceutical Diversion Investigative Unit, call 941.861.4963 or fax 941.861.4002.

To learn about Sarasota County's Community Health Improvement Partnership (CHIP), including links to local substance abuse coalitions, click here.