For the past several years, Florida has been a key battleground in the government’s efforts to combat illegal drug use. While recreational drugs like marijuana tend to draw the most attention from the press, the more serious problem of opiate and heroin abuse has rapidly become the top priority for law enforcement and public health officials.
Heroin vs. Legal Opiates
Morphine is a naturally occurring opiate–pain medication–found in many plants. While morphine is incredibly helpful in treating patients with moderate-to-severe pain, it is also highly addictive. For this reason, the legal prescription and distribution of morphine is heavily regulated by state and federal authorities.
Heroin is an illegal form of morphine. According to the National Institutes of Health, heroin sold in Florida and throughout the eastern United States is primarily imported from South America. Heroin has become increasingly popular in Florida as authorities have cracked down on the over-prescription of legal opiates.
How Bad is Florida’s Heroin Problem?
A reported prepared by the National Governors Association said approximately 586,000 people in the United States are addicted to heroin. Since 2001, there has been a 200 percent increase of overdose deaths attributed to heroin or other opiates. That represents more than 60 percent of all overdose deaths.
Orlando and Orange County are at the epicenter of this epidemic. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office said there were 101 drug overdoses reported in the first six weeks of 2017–70 of which were related to heroin. During the same period in 2016, there were only 28 heroin-related victims out of 63 total reported overdoses.
A 2014 Reuters article noted that Florida’s heroin problem is especially widespread among people under the age of 30. As state and federal law enforcement have stemmed the tide of legal prescription pills, heroin has simply taken its place. One health care official said many young people now actively use heroin “in place of prescription pain pills.”
What Are the Legal Risks of Using Heroin?
Heroin is not something to mess around with. Possession of 10 ounces or less of heroin is a third-degree felony under Florida law punishable by up to 5 years in prison. In contrast, possession of 20 grams of marijuana is only a misdemeanor punishable by no more than 1 year in jail. And if you are caught selling, delivering, or manufacturing heroin, you can be charged with a second-degree felony and, if convicted, sentenced up to 15 years in prison.
If you have been charged with heroin possession, you need to remain calm and contact a qualified Orlando criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Police often make mistakes in drug cases, such as conducting an illegal search or misidentifying a legal substance as heroin. You need a lawyer by your side who understands the law and will stand up for your rights. Contact the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, at 407-377-0150 if you need to speak with a lawyer today.