They are dying in the potato fields of Aroostook County and the lobster-fishing harbors Down East. They are dying in the western foothills where paper mill closures have sown economic anxiety. They are dying in cities like Portland and Augusta and in the affluent suburbs, where heroin is plentiful.
In Maine, the 2016 drug overdose death toll reached 376, driven almost entirely by opioids – prescription painkillers, heroin and now fentanyl. More than one victim per day. More than car accidents. More than suicide. More than breast cancer.
And it’s getting worse.
It also puts a human face to the opioid crisis. Actually, many human faces -- 60 in all, and all of them now gone to drug overdose.
There’s David Zysk, a social service caseworker who died at 33. Mark Berglund, a telecommunications professional who died at 50. There’s lobsterman Samuel Stevens; millworker Dennis Tardie; mechanic Bobby Jo Hafford, dead at respective 23, 26 and 35.
“I still think people have this idea in their head about who is caught up in this crisis,” said Dr. Mary Dowd, an addiction-treatment specialist who sees hundreds of patients through her work with Catholic Charities. Dowd is also the medical director for Milestone Foundation, which runs “the only true detox facility” in the entire state of Maine.
There are just 16 beds.
Still, “many people struggling with addiction find treatment and regain their lives. [Dr. Dowd] sees it every day. Those are the lucky ones.”
While we at Recovery Boot Camp believe luck shouldn’t be a determinate for receiving addiction treatment, we’ve also seen that those who do find treatment quite often get to regain their lives. And that’s just downright lucky for everyone.
Photo: People at a candlelight vigil in Monument Square remember those lost to drug overdoses during Portland’s fourth annual Overdose Awareness Night. Staff photo by Carl D. Walsh. Portland Press Herald