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Fentanyl Crackdown: Flurry of drug busts on Treasure Coast show enforcement is effective

A Martin County Sheriff's Cruiser in Fort Pierce, Fl.{ }(WPEC){p}{/p}
A Martin County Sheriff's Cruiser in Fort Pierce, Fl. (WPEC)

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The single greatest drug threat facing this country - fentanyl - is becoming a problem across the state - most recently on the Treasure Coast.

In just the past week, authorities have made multiple fentanyl busts in the region - arresting at least five people.

The Martin and St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office tell CBS12 News it's a growing problem in the area - but one they are actively working to tackle.

The leading factor in today's overdoses is fentanyl - the synthetic opioid closely associated with heroin on the street - but it’s much more lethal.

“Heroin, while it’s a bad thing, it’s a terrible drug, we’ve warned people for years that it’s a bad drug, you could overdose and die on it - fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than heroin is," stated Chief Deputy John Budensiek of the Martin County Sheriff's Office.

Chief Deputy Budensiek says fentanyl is now more widely available than it has been in the past.

“Now, it seems that our local users don’t want heroin, which they know is safer to use (than fentanyl), they’re actually targeting and trying to use fentanyl, which is alarming to us as investigators,” he remarked.

From Martin to St. Lucie County — both sheriff's offices are seeing a surge in drugs being laced with fentanyl.

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“You lace the marijuana, you lace cocaine, you lace other drugs with fentanyl, now they’re more addictive," explained Chief Deputy Brian Hester of the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office. "Now that person’s going to come back to you more and more. It’s a disgusting world, it’s a disgusting business.”

Chief Deputy Hester says the recent increase in drug busts is actually a positive in that it shows drugs are getting off the street - and the people responsible are behind bars.

“It's much easier to prosecute dealers for a homicide that's related to fentanyl and heroin overdoses than it was two-three years ago, so those penalties are actually getting stiffer,” Hester said.

The Treasure Coast sheriffs have a task force dedicated to cracking down on drugs, making it easier to track down dealers crossing county lines.

“Drug dealers for years have known that we’re limited by our county boundaries. We’re not bound by these restrictions anymore," Budensiek said. "If we have a case that goes into St. Lucie County, we’ll reach out to the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, we’ll work with them and make arrests accordingly.”

In St. Lucie County, overdose deaths from fentanyl have actually decreased in the last year — that's just one sign this task force is working.

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