Experts say human sex trafficking is on the rise in southwest Florida.
Brandon Short of Lee County Associates in Psychiatry travels to treatment centers across southwest Florida to see patients. In his ten years of practice, he's seeing more victims of human trafficking now than ever before, and he said the heroin epidemic is to blame.
"A lot of the times, the girls will just be looking for somebody to buy drugs from," Short said. "And then, before they know it, they're captured in a hotel room somewhere, or in a house, or in a closet."
In the last month alone, Short said he's seen four cases of extreme sex trafficking -- more than ever before.
He warns anyone thinking of trying heroin: the black market of drugs and prostitution go hand-in-hand.
"If this isn't a deterrent not to do heroin, or any other type of drugs, at the risk of you might be caught up in a sex trafficking ring against your will, I don't know what is," Short said.
One of the four girls Short saw this month passed away from an overdose. Another patient is managing to stay clean. The other two have been unreachable.
Short said the girls are all born in the United States, and all became addicted to heroin.