Nantucket, the 50-square-mile island known for lighthouses, quaint boutiques, idyllic beaches, and ritzy summer homes, has a dark secret.
Located 30 miles south of Massachusetts, the island has not escaped the opiate problem of the mainland. In fact, the community’s heroin problem is worse than ever.
“Heroin is more prevalent than a few years ago,” Nantucket police Lt. Jerry Adams told island-based newspaper The Inquirer and Mirror. In the past week, three island residents died of suspected overdoses, according to the paper.
The heroin problem on Nantucket has been bubbling since the late 90s. As the vacation island’s population rises in the summer, so, too, does the prevalence of opiates. “If you go certain places there are lots of needles around [during the summer],” Dr. Tim Lepore, a surgeon at the island’s only hospital, told wbur.org, the Boston affiliate of NPR.
The heroin surge is a byproduct of Nantucket’s prescription opiate pill problem: young residents get addicted to painkillers like Oxycontin and eventually turn to heroin, which is less expensive. But dealers can reportedly sell their product for “double — sometimes triple — what they make selling heroin on the mainland,” according to wbur.org.
Indeed, it’s the island’s wealth and isolation that may have exacerbated its heroin problem. In 2014, there were 1,000 opioid deaths in Massachusetts, and since 2012, the number of opioid deaths has risen by 33%, according to a state report.
Since it’s more difficult to get help with addiction on the island, and there’s no residential rehab facility or detox center, the problem often goes untreated until it’s too late.
Nantucket police have stepped up measures to combat the problem, with SWAT raids uncovering multiple grams or more of the controlled substance.