Heroin in SWFL: Easy access

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This is the final piece of a three-part series examining heroin usage in Southwest Florida. This piece shows how easy heroin is to find in Southwest Florida.

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Michael remembers vividly all the places where he could find heroin on a Friday night.

“Lots of dope in here,” he said. “Lots and lots of dope in here.”

The recovering addict, whose name was changed for his safety, points out the various places along U.S. 41 where he used to buy heroin.

“The guy that manages this hotel, he does heroin,” he said. “He is selling heroin and crack out of there.”

He identified motels, inns, convenient stores and gas stations where he knows heroin is being sold.

Pimps and prostitutes could be seen walking down the street every night of the week.

“A lot of us out here are broken and that’s why they’re out here,” said Kayla Jackson, a former prostitute.

Then he heard a familiar voice.

“Hey baby!”

A prostitute walks over to his car, saying she’s ready to party.

“How much,” Michael asked.

When Michael was using, he made money by creating ads on Backpage, a popular site for girls selling themselves for sex.

“I stayed in a hotel every night,” he said. “We’d make enough money to buy our drugs and buy a room.”

But motel owners in the most well known drug areas deny having any problems in their rooms, even though Lee County deputies have responded to 400 different calls at these motels within the last year, including for drugs.

Dr. Brandon Short, who works with recovering addicts like Michael, is well aware of the drug use in Fort Myers.

“If we can save one, two or three people out of 10, it makes my hours in the day worth it,” said Short, a PA-C CAQ psychiatrist. “We see about a 30 percent recovery rate, but 30 percent is better than 0 percent.”

A former drug addict and dealer who didn’t want to be identified wants other users to know that they can take control of their lives.

“You gotta man up — no one is going to take control of your life but you,” he said. “No one is going to make that step but you, so you just gotta make it. You gotta do it.”

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