Code Black: Synthetic opioids leading to more deaths on the Suncoast


MANATEE COUNTY- Fentanyl and Carfentanyl, are stronger and more dangerous than other opioids, but they follow the same path to the Suncoast.

Synthetic Opioids like Fentanyl were developed for people suffering from things like stage 4 cancers and significant pain. Now dealers are selling it on the streets.

“Morphine is kind of the barrier as far as what pain management is measured on,” Capt. Todd Shear said. “So Fentanyl is about 100 times more potent then morphine and carfentanyl as well which is about 10,000 times more potent than morphine.”

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigation Division Captain Todd Shear says these dangerous drugs are coming into the country illegally.

“We believe it’s being made overseas in China,” Shear said. “Being imported through not only our southern border, but also our northern border, Canada, we also believe its being made in labs in Mexico.”

The drugs then follow the traditional drug supply route.

“Sometimes it’s being intermixed into the heroin supply,” Shear said. “And sometimes it’s just being transported over as straight fentanyl.”

Shear says it’s now leading cause of overdose death on the Suncoast.

Fentanyl is being sold to addicts as heroin and pain medication, leading to more deaths.

“You have folks suffering from the disease of addiction,” Shear said. “Thinking they’re going to get a hit of heroin, in fact it’s not heroin, it’s a mixture of potentially heroin and fentanyl. A lot of times 100% fentanyl, a lot of times 100% carfentanyl, so someone who thinks they can handle this particular dose. In fact can’t handle that dose.”

When they arrest dealers, they use all they’re resources to determine where the supply is coming from. But those routes change frequently.

“They’re utilizing the same mechanisms that they have for decades,” Shear said. “And your guess is as good as mine, through airlines, through US mail, through regular trafficking mechanisms that are already in place as well.”

Shear says the Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies can help those struggling with addiction find help before they are mistakenly exposed to Fentanyl.

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Samantha Sonner
Multimedia Journalist Samantha Sonner comes to the Suncoast from Las Cruces, New Mexico, where she worked as a reporter and host for KRWG TV/FM reporting on local politics, immigration, and border issues. Samantha grew up on Long Island, New York. She received her Bachelor of Science in Broadcast and Digital Journalism from Syracuse University. At Syracuse, she worked at WAER, the campus NPR station and interned at television stations in Central New York. Samantha is excited for the Florida Sunshine, and to be living so close to fantastic beaches. Feel free to follow her on Facebook and Twitter for story updates and news, or to send her story tips and ideas. You can also email her at


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