Almost as fast as the cheap, insanely addictive bath salts component known as “flakka” flooded the streets of South Florida more than two years ago, the drug seems to have vanished from the local scene thanks to an unprecedented coordination between federal, state, and local resources.
Nicknamed the “Devil’s Drug,” flakka is a synthetic crystal imported from China that, for a few months late last year, was sending dozens of Florida residents to the hospital every day. The drug is extremely addictive, and extremely cheap. It costs only $5, and users could experience a high that lasted up to three days long.
Unfortunately, for many users symptoms included the belief that they had superhuman strength and delusions of being able to do anything. Moreover, the comedown from the drug gave many users suicidal thoughts. The shocking rate of deaths in such a short few months in 2015 sent law enforcement on high alert.
Then, in early 2016, China banned some of the key ingredients used in making flakka. As a result, the drug became less and less available to drug users in both China and America. So Flakka use is way down.
Why, then, are drug-related deaths still so high? Heroin.
Heroin Deaths Rise in Florida
Drug users began to switch from flakka to heroin in October 2015, after flakka had taken the lives of over 45 people in Broward County alone. During that month, West Palm Beach officers seized 11.9 grams of heroin and 49.2 grams of flakka. The next month, police seized 88.6 grams of heroin and 7.4 grams of flakka.
With the decline of flakka, law enforcement has seen a shocking rise in both heroin consumption and deaths throughout the region. The Delray Beach Police Department has reported seven heroin deaths and 51 heroin overdoes so far in 2016. At this time in 2015, the Police Department had only seen two overdoses, and a total of 10 people died from heroin in Delray Beach in the entirety of 2015.
Investigators and law enforcement believe that the lack of flakka is driving drug users to pursue heroin. The heroin present in South Florida is particularly strong and addictive, and as heroin usage rises, the heroin death toll has spiked.
But it’s not just flakka. Our current heroin epidemic started long before that, when lots of people started becoming addicted to opiates like hydrocodone and oxycodone – often legitimately prescribed – and then couldn’t stop when their prescription ran out. They went “doctor shopping.” They stole or purchased pills from relatives, friends, or others who still had prescriptions.
Then legislators and law enforcement officials cracked down on this type of behavior and closed shop on a number of “pill mills.” The price skyrocketed, and users had to look for an alternative.
Just like flakka users, heroin is what they found, because it can be purchased for a fraction of the cost and provide them with a similar – sometimes even better – high. But though medicinal opiates come with very serious issues, heroin is a completely different beast.
Effects of Heroin
When the drug enters the brain, it binds to opioid receptors and delivers a pleasurable “rush.” But this can also be accompanied by nausea and vomiting, and breathing may be slowed enough to lead to a coma, permanent brain damage, and even death.
Heroin deaths continue to reach all-time highs in the Sunshine State – and at an alarming rate. The drug is only getting more and more dangerous. The heroin South Florida law enforcement has been seizing lately tends to be mixed with fentanyl. Fentanyl is an opioid medication that is 50 times more potent than heroin, and the deadly combination is rising in popularity.
Penalties for Heroin Charges in Florida
Heroin is an extremely dangerous drug, so Florida law reserves extra harsh penalties and sentences for anyone who uses, manufactures, or distributes it. It is classified as a Schedule I drug, putting it in the most dangerous category of drugs in the state. If this is your first time offense and you are caught with possession, however, the judge may offer you options for rehabilitation rather than incarceration.
Possession – Possessing any amount of heroin is charged as a 3rd degree felony, subject to up to five years in prison and fines of up to $5,000. If you possess over 4 grams of heroin, you will be assumed to be trafficking heroin, and subject to trafficking sentences.
Sale – Selling up to 10 grams of heroin is charged as a 2nd degree felony, subject to up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. Selling over 10 grams of heroin is charged as a 1st degree felony, subject to up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. Selling next to an educational facility will result in a higher sentence.
Trafficking – Trafficking is always charged as a 1st degree felony, but sentencing is determined based on the amount of heroin in your possession. Sentencing guidelines are as follows:
- 4-14 grams: 3 years in prison and/or fines of up to $50,000
- 4-28 grams: 15 years in prison and/or fines of up to $100,000
- 28 grams-30 kilograms: 25 years in prison and/or fines of up to $500,000
- Over 30 kilograms: life in prison
With the newsworthy rise in both heroin and fentanyl deaths, law enforcement officers are hoping to crack down on both on trafficking and production of heroin. If you have been charged on drug-related crimes, you may face higher sentences and penalties than ever. Get an experienced Florida drug crimes lawyer to fight these charges today.
About the Author:
Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he’s done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.