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Maine Lobstermen Struggle to Deal with Heroin Addiction

Some years ago there was a huge prescription drug problem in Utah. But not many were admitting to it, or going for help. Their silence was largely due to the reticence of those in the Mormon church to discuss the problem since using drugs of any sort was so frowned upon. Some church officials even refused to talk about it. Now we have a similar situation in Maine’s lobster industry. It’s up to others in the industry, and their families and friends, to reach out, and to push for more help to be made available to them.

Mainers are stoic. They don’t talk about their feelings. They don’t talk about personal things. Among lobstermen, this way of life is even more prevalent than with others in the state.

But the lobstermen are up against even more than their personal reluctance to discuss the problem.

Few Treatment Options for Lobstermen in Maine

Unlike many other states, Maine offers very little help to drug addicts. According to a recent article in The Fix:

  • Church-based recovery ministries—like Machias Christian Fellowship’s Arise Addiction Recovery House—provide some assistance.
  • Detox centers are few and far between.
  • Twelve-step program meetings are also scarce in major lobster ports like Vinalhaven.
  • Only two doctors on Deer Isle, home to Maine’s largest lobster port, are licensed to prescribe Suboxone.
  • Treatment protocols are particularly difficult to adhere to for a lobsterman. Because they are at sea for long and unpredictable periods of time, they can’t make it to get daily methadone shots or therapy sessions.
  • Many don’t have health insurance so can’t pay for treatment – although more have insurance than did before the Affordable Care Act.
  • The state doesn’t do random drug testing due to lack of funds.
  • The Coast Guard and Maine Marine Patrol are so busy dealing with territory feuds and gear theft among fisherman, they barely have time to address those problems, let alone take on new ones. The feuds and theft directly affect the revenue of lobstermen that they need to be dealt with as a priority. The state can legally penalize those who break the related laws, but even then the losses are very difficult to deal with for the lobsterman. The individuals found guilty of these crimes loses their license or has it suspended – leaving them with no work and no income. The victims of the crimes have to find a way to make up the losses, and the state also suffers. In 2016 alone the lobster industry contributed over $500 million to state coffers.

The Department of Marine Resources is now at opening the door to the lobstermen who have lost their license to go back to work if they do regular drug testing and treatment. But, again, the resources are scarce. The state is also looking at funding expanded treatment to the tune of $3 million for those who don’t have insurance at all, and up to 400 patients on MaineCare insurance.

What Can You Do to Help Maine Lobstermen and the Industry?

There are steps you can take to help with the problem.

  • Talk to your lobstermen family members and friends. Find out if they’re having a problem with drugs – the biggest problems are heroin and fentanyl – and help them get the help they need.
  • Find out about and push on whatever legal actions are being considered by the state to provide treatment options and to open the door to fishermen who have a drug problem to get their jobs back after treatment.

To find out more about how to get help with drug rehab options and resources, contact us at 855-889-0555.

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