LEE COUNTY, Fla.- The famous pill mills of Florida drew a crowd from all over the US. But a recent crackdown on those pill mills, may be having an unintended consequence, and it's killing more people than ever before.
"Now they are hooked, but they can't find the prescriptions for those painkillers at the pharmacies."
Prescriptions for pain meds that used to flow like water. have dried up. While the demand is still there for the drugs, the price for addicts is too high.
One pain pill can sell on the black market for $40 to $50 a pop. But there's a cheaper option.
"It's the most addictive narcotic that there is," said ER doctor Timothy Dougherty of Cape Coral Hospital.
We're talking about heroin.
For just $6, people can get the same high they were used to with certain prescriptions.
"For a person to just maintain, it will take a few bags of heroin a day," said Alejandro Garcia-Bien of Salus Care, a rehabilitation clinic.
But the true cost of this heroin uprising, is much bigger.
It's been widely reported that more than 1,000 arrests involving heroin were made in 2012, a significant jump from the year before.
Now, WINK News uncovered the drug is taking more people from the streets to the morgue. Only WINK News got exclusive numbers for deaths in 2013. In fact, the state put them together just for our investigation.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement tells us, in just the first six months of 2013, the latest numbers they have, medical examiners have seen 68 deaths caused by heroin. That's already more than half of all deaths reported in 2012, which was 108.
And 2012 was a big year in itself, heroin overdoses first dropped during the first six months in 2012, only to skyrocket 80 percent by the end of the year.
It's only expected to get worse, according to what Doctor Timothy Dougherty sees in his ER at Cape Coral Hospital on a weekly basis.
"I worked yesterday and I saw three heroin overdoses yesterday," said Dr. Dougherty.
The problem is, "You don't know what you are actually getting when buying it, you don't know the strength, the concentration, the additives."
It's not just straight heroin.
"In order to get the biggest bang for your buck, in terms of a seller of heroin. You can mix it with baby powder, sheet rock, mix with tylenol," said Garcia-Bien.
And what's even scarier? Heroin addicts are no longer just the drug addict on the street.
"Now heroin is used by everybody," said Garcia-Bien.
It's the businessman, the senior citizen and even the soccer mom that's trying to get high.
"There is a certain patient population that is overdosing on heroin that used to overdose on prescription drugs," said Dr. Dougherty.