Addiction in Sarasota, Florida, and Where to Find Help
Sarasota’s law enforcement, justice system, and community organizations have made great strides in combatting the opioid epidemic. They do it by fighting crime, holding irresponsible doctors accountable, reducing harm to users, and providing solid, evidence-based treatment programs for addicts.
Welcome to Sarasota
A nice town, but not immune to the opioid epidemic
Like the rest of Florida Sarasota has a crime rate that for years has remained consistently above the national average, and this has often been linked to the Florida drug trade. Although Sarasota County itself, along with all the counties that surround it, is not a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) it does face a number of challenges when it comes to drug-related crime and the social damage ensuing from it.
Sarasota does have a coastline but although incoming contraband isn’t a huge threat as it is in certain other Florida counties, cocaine is readily available in Florida, which rivals New York and California for drug trafficking activity, coming in from all over the world via ports like Miami. Home-produced drugs like methamphetamine and marijuana are also plentiful; these along with heroin and prescription drugs pose a big threat to public safety.
Drug overdose deaths for prescription drugs, including generic versions of Xanax and Valium as well as opioids including oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone (which is in fact one of the drugs medically used to ease opiate withdrawal) are high in Sarasota as in the rest of the state. Cocaine continues to be a danger in Sarasota as it has been in Florida since the 1980s.
Heavy drinking and binge drinking is also a public threat, both to drinkers and to their victims when they’re behind the wheel, especially in Florida where drunk driving happens more often than in the rest of the country. Between 2003 and 2012 more than 8000 people were killed by drunk drivers. Binge drinking is still popular among young people.
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)
One especially heartbreaking drug-related statistic is the sudden increase in neonatal addictions. In 2016 Florida saw more babies born addicted to opioids than ever before, a total of 4215 babies born with opioid addictions and suffering from opioid withdrawal symptoms. Sarasota Memorial Hospital reported 114 such cases in 2016 alone. Sarasota County had the third highest number of diagnoses for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) of all Florida counties.
Nurses say that it’s a matter of hours or even days before symptoms of opiate withdrawal appear. When the symptoms first manifest as steady crying that sounds like a cat’s, severe tremors, skin problems, and trouble eating, sleeping, and having bowel movements. The number of NAS babies began to surge in 2006, and in 2007 Sarasota Memorial Hospital created a task force to address the problem. In the early days mothers of NAS babies the mothers were users of marijuana and cocaine, but it wasn’t long before pregnant women were also abusing prescription pain killers. The latest culprit is heroin.
But sometimes it’s not even the harder drugs that are leading to withdrawal; some babies experience withdrawal symptoms as a result of their mother’s addiction to pain medication, caffeine, or nicotine.
The dilemma for women who use drugs and become pregnant is a hard one; pain medication addiction treatments, for example, involve addictive drugs. Methadone, for one example, is a legal heroin treatment, one of the best heroin addiction treatment options, in fact, but methadone is an opioid itself, this is addictive and will cause NAS.
But if a woman goes untreated and experiences withdrawal she’ll probably miscarry. If she wishes to avoid this she needs to get treatment, but even the best treatment for opiate addiction will leave her child addicted and experiencing painful withdrawal symptoms.
The “anti-pill mill bill”
In 2011 Florida’s Governor Rick Scott cleverly named Bill 7095 the “anti-pill mill bill,” and its passing led to the arrests of unscrupulous doctors and the closing of irresponsible clinics. The increase in the number of NAS babies born soon slowed down.
Unfortunately, as was and is still happening in other parts of the U.S., a decrease in the availability of opioid painkillers led to an increase in sales of heroin, the cheapest alternative to the addictive prescription painkillers. The Mexican drug cartels are said to have responded strategically to the closing of the pill mills by flooding the market with cheap heroin, knowing that those addicted to opioids, to fentanyl in particular, would become enslaved to a heroin addiction when their access to prescription opioids disappeared.
In the next three years the number of NAS babies slowly rose. Every baby born with NAS was required to remain in hospital with its mother for seven days (as opposed to two days for a baby born with no health issues). The cost of the longer stays means hospital bills are greatly increasing.
As part of their medical detox from opiates the NAS babies receive morphine and phenobarbital until their symptoms go away. After that they depend on their mothers to remain addiction free. But some nurses have observed that even after witnessing the effects of withdrawal on their babies many mothers are so much in denial about their addictions and the effects of those addictions on their children that they quickly relapse after treatment.
Those mothers who are aware and who are devastated by the effects of their addiction on their infants are often so overwhelmed by childcare responsibilities, guilt, and postpartum depression that they relapse in spite of their determination to be good moms. Women struggling with domestic violence and mental health issues are especially susceptible to relapse.
Drug abuse clinics often include a few pregnant women, the needs of whose unborn children are taken into consideration in the treatment plan. Sometimes babies are born while the mothers are in opioid dependence treatment, and if so the mothers are encouraged to spend as much bonding time with their babies as possible and are also given parenting classes. They’re even allowed to breastfeed if they’re on methadone, one of the most common medical treatments for heroin addiction, because the amount of the drug that reaches the breastmilk is too small to harm an infant.
Deaths from Opioid Overdose
As if babies enduring withdrawal weren’t a painful enough reality, in 2010 Florida had 3181 drug deaths, more drug-caused deaths per capita than the average in the rest of the country, and more than deaths by car accidents or guns, and the number keeps climbing.
By the year 2016 opioid-related deaths for people of all ages in the state had hit a record high, 35% higher than in the previous year. Since 2013 Florida has seen a 50% rise in deaths in which heroin was found in the bodies, as well as an 84% rise in deaths caused by fentanyl.
Such a toll on public health provokes a range of emotions from rage to indignation to despair to compassion, and responses bear witness to the sentiments in which they’re rooted.
Stepping up to the bat
In recent news the Sarasota City Commission has just voted unanimously to sue opioid manufacturers in federal court. The aim is to recover damages linked to the opioid crisis. The defendants will be seven or more big pharma companies as well as their distributors. The companies will be held to task for making false claims about the benefits of opioid pain relievers and for failing to disclose the risks, leading to massive costs to the municipalities trying to cope with the epidemic.
Previous similar litigations in the rest of the country since 2003 (there are many, and many more are in the works) reveal that the companies marketed the drugs aggressively and dishonestly, using a number of incentives to encourage doctors to promote the drugs.
The police showed their dedication to a drug free Sarasota last November when “Operation Corner Stone” (the name a play on words—street corners where drugs are sold plus “stone” for a slang term for rock cocaine), an undercover investigation that began in January 2017 succeeded in arresting a ring of 15 drug traffickers.
Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino is hoping for the severest penalties for these arrests. She takes a hard line on recidivist drug dealers, warning them, “Beware–we are coming after you, and we’re not going stop until we keep our streets clean.”
In other parts of the community citizens are concerned for the safety of drug users, who may fail to report overdose emergencies for fear of arrest. Police are asking users to report on bad batches of drugs so that the police can warn the public. Police and emergency workers are also emphasizing the urgency of treatment for addictions.
The drug naloxone, which can save the life of someone overdosing on opiates, is now carried by first responders across the state and can even be bought over the counter at some drug stores (look this up for Sarasota).
The progressive new Florida program that distributes both sterile syringes and free Naloxone (brand name Narcan), a drug to reverse the effects of a drug overdose, is still making its way to Sarasota but hasn’t quite made it there yet. Naloxone also is not yet available at Sarasota drug store counters.
Police in Sarasota as everywhere else grow frustrated when drug addicts they arrest for committing crimes to feed their addictions end up leaving jail only to commit crimes again and again because the addiction is still controlling them. Drug Courts have proven a very effective means of curtailing this futile process.
Drug courts were first developed in Miami in order to help people convicted of drug-related crimes to get treatment for their addictions instead of becoming revolving door offenders. Offenders are given the choice of treatment as opposed to prison time. The program has been very successful and has been adopted all over the country.
The drug court in Sarasota offers services for outpatient treatment and intensive inpatient treatment. Some of the therapies they use are cognitive/behavioral therapy and counseling. The sheriff’s office has also created a drug addiction treatment program to be carried out in the jail itself.
There’s always hope
Do you find yourself caught up in the darker side of Sarasota life? Have you unwittingly become addicted to opioids? Are you looking for heroin addiction help? Have you become a slave to any substance that’s hurting you and those who need you and who care about you?
Don’t despair—whatever forces in the world come against you, there’s an equally strong force inside you that can push back. We’re here to help! We can guide you to the best drug detox for heroin and opioids as well as long-term residential inpatient heroin detox and pain pill addiction treatment.
Call us to get up to date information to help you through your own beautiful recovery journey!
The community group that calls itself “Drug Free Sarasota” has created a program for people to drop off their unused prescription medications for safe disposal, with no questions asked. They’ve also developed youth programs encouraging young people to sign pacts agreeing to remain free of drugs and even to accept regular drug testing, which entitles them to free gifts and discounts from partnering businesses. The group also encourages local doctors to educate their patients about the dangers of drug abuse.
Addiction Recovery Programs in Sarasota
Sarasota’s recovery treatment facilities place on emphasis on using only treatments that have been proven to work. Some of these include Moral Reconation (aiming to increase the capacity for moral reasoning), cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, and rapid resolution.
Clients are taught skills for recovery and given individual, family, and group counseling, anger management and sometimes even yoga is incorporated. There’s heavy emphasis on the 12 Steps and strong connections to the local 12-Step community.
Assessment and Pre-intake
Sarasota’s drug treatment facilities have admission requirements that ensure the safety of each client and improve the chances of treatment success. They will of course require incoming patients to be drug and alcohol free or to undergo detox, to be over the age of 18, to be physically and mentally stable, and to be able to take part in the activities of the program. Payment arrangements will also be made at this stage.
Often clients will be instructed not to bring certain items like cell phones, clock radios, cameras, or anything that might connect them to the internet. The number of clothing articles is limited to only what is necessary.
Usually there are limits on visitation, but this varies from facility to facility.
Detox is the essential step in the recovery process. Many would love to be able to get off opiates without withdrawal, but withdrawal is necessarily the body’s way of adjusting its biology after a substance dependency. No program can succeed if the client is still using drugs or if drugs remain in their system.
Detox can take from three days in rapid detox centers to thirty days in longer term programs where the patient is eased through withdrawal with the appropriate medications and provided with counseling and education to prevent relapse.
Detoxing off opiates is no small task, but even more sobering is the fact that releasing a patient after a thirty day detox period is usually not a good idea; even a thirty day detox period isn’t enough to truly prepare for a drug-free life on the outside, and besides, once the drug has been eliminated the addict’s tolerance returns to zero, meaning that the dose of the drug they were using before entering detox might now be lethal. Detox works best if followed by a longer term inpatient residential treatment program.
Sarasota’s detox facilities are medically supervised and place emphasis on good nutrition. Activities are structured, especially during the more difficult early days of withdrawal. Some facilities have rooms set aside for married couples who are both struggling with addiction, couples rehab centers allow partners to detox and get treatment together as a pair.
Longer term inpatient treatments have a greater success rate than simple detox periods alone, partly because they separate clients from the stressors, triggers, and temptations in their own environments that got them hooked in the first place.
Residential treatment facilities also connect addicts with a community of people who are going through the same struggle and who can offer a network of support that can ensure that participants continue in sobriety after release from the treatment center.
Treatments are also designed for those with co-occurring disorders such as mental illness, and the underlying disorder is treated at the same time as the addiction.
Pregnant women, mothers, and babies are also treated within recovery facilities.
Outpatient Treatment Sarasota
Outpatient treatment in Sarasota can be quite helpful for those not in need of more intensive long-term care, providing therapy and relapse prevention education for individuals, families, and groups. These services can be more intensive according to the needs of substance abusers.
Maintaining close ties with the support systems developed during drug rehab can go far in maintaining sobriety for life. Treatment programs in Sarasota teach clients how to change certain conditions in their lives in order to avoid relapse, such as staying away from the social circles in which one had first started abusing substances. Find a sober living home to increase the chance of staying sober for an extended amount of time.
Are there any detox centers near me?
Of course there are, and we’re here to help you find them.
And remember, as many times as you fall, keep picking yourself back up. You have it in you to succeed. We’re behind you and at your side, ready to guide you through recovery and on to a full, meaningful life.
Let us help you find the best inpatient heroin addiction treatment centers, the most effective outpatient programs, the most effective pain medication rehab, or whatever it is you need right now.
Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit. ~Bernard Williams
Sarasota city information
Sarasota is the county seat of Sarasota County, on Florida’s Gulf Coast. A vibrant tourist center with many cultural attractions, the town has wonderful weather and a highly active arts and entertainment community. It’s a city where lovers of theatre, opera, and ballet can find much to admire. Street art, an aquarium, an internationally recognized film festival, and botanical gardens are also among the city’s attractions. Neighborhoods within the city include Sonoma, Newtown, Pinecraft, Cascades of Sarasota, Hyde Park, Savannah, Shady Creek, Preserve, and University Groves neighborhood.
In 2014 the entirely urban population was registered at 54,214. The average age is 47 years, five years more than in the rest of Florida. The average per capita income in 2016 was estimated at $32,599. In the same year the cost of living index was just slightly below that of the rest of the U.S. Most denizens of Sarasota have completed high school and more than a third have bachelor’s degrees or higher. In 2016 the unemployment rate for those 25 years old and older stood at 5.9%