TAMPA (FOX 13) - Unfortunately in recent years, Manatee County has become the home of heroin -- an epidemic that claimed 77 lives last year alone, and gives the county a dubious distinction of being number one in the state for deaths from heroin addiction and overdoses.
Now a new type of heroin has everyone worried: Heroin in the form of a pill. So how did heroin use get so out of hand?
The unintended consequence of Florida's crackdown on prescription pill mills ignited a frightening side effect. Addicts simply moved from prescription pills to heroin.
A recovering addict we'll call Cynthia told us about the horrors of heroin addiction.
"The amount of money that I spent is just astronomical," she said, "and at the height of my habit I was up to three to five bundles a day, so it was roughly $300 to $400 a day."
Cynthia said heroin became the singular focus of her life; nothing else mattered. And sadly she's not alone.
Lynne Knowles is the president of NOPE Hillsborough. NOPE stands for Narcotics, Overdose, Prevention and Education. She knows all too well the evils heroin can inflict on families.
First, her daughter was lost to addiction. Then, heroin finally killed her.
"It started when my daughter was in middle school. We thought it was just a coming of age experimentation," Lynne explained.
Then, one day, she made a devastating discovery at a local Walgreens. "We found her in the bathroom with a needle in her arm."
DEA Special Agent James Dicaprio says buyers are playing a deadly game of Russian Roulette.
"A lot of times these guys are lacing heroin with fentanyl," Dicaprio said.
Fentanyl is a powerful pain narcotic, and what worries him the most is many addicts don't know what they're getting when they make a buy. "It may be the first time that you overdose, it may be the second time. A lot of times that first time could cost you your life."
Community addiction centers like Tampa's DACCO are at the front-line of the heroin crisis. Dr. Jason Fields, an addiction expert, has some sobering facts.
"We've recently seen a resurgence in the number of people being admitted for help getting off of heroin," he explained. "Many people become so sick that they can't stop on their own. That's where we can help."