Vineyarders still succumbing to opiate overdoses

Decorated bags adorn the seawall on International Overdose Day in 2023. —Dena Porter

The number of fatal, opiate-related overdoses on Martha’s Vineyard has not let up, despite a decrease seen in fatalities around the state.

There were six fatalities reported on the Island in 2023, according to a new report from the Massachusetts health department reviewing the number of overdoses in 2023. There were also six fatalities reported in 2022, which was then one of the highest on record for the Vineyard.

The most opiate-related deaths over the past decade was in 2015, when seven Islanders succumbed to an overdose; five people died in 2021.

The state Department of Public Health published the new statistics on Wednesday last week as part of an annual study.

Across Massachusetts there were 2,125 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths in 2023, which is 232 fewer than in 2022, when Massachusetts had a record 2,357 fatal opioid-related overdoses. 

Island officials say that one of the main reasons that overdose deaths continue on the Island is the presence of fentanyl, and especially its presence in some street drugs. Fentanyl is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved, potent synthetic opioid. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency says fentanyl is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times heroin.

“Fentanyl is showing up everywhere. Your pot can be laced with it; it’s in coke, it’s in pretty much everything you don’t know what you’re getting into these days,” said Dr. Brian Morris, a mental health specialist and substance use disorder access coordinator at Island Health Care.

Morris said that key to ending opiate-related deaths on the Island is education and informing the public about the dangers of fentanyl.

“To patients of mine … I’m always very careful to say make sure you know who you’re buying your stuff from, and make sure you can trust, so that you know fentanyl is not in, what you think is ‘LSD.’”

Morris said that the data released by the state is concerning.

“I’m very scared by these trends, and I’m doing all I can to put an end to them,” Morris said. “And I’m not alone. There’s a very robust community here fighting that same good fight.”



  1. Maybe if they stop getting a slap on the hand but no instead they walk the streets and do it again what a joke they want to kill kids or adults they need to get life not get out in a couple years court system needs to do something it is sicken they way they pass out time for these people.

    • The idea of stopping addiction by criminalizing the addict has been shown to be comprehensively counterproductive for a hundred years. Nothing whatsoever good can come from it, and it’s guaranteed to magnify the problem considerably from all angles.

      I lost my first wife to addiction. Actually, mainly I lost my wife to the fact that everyone around her became an absolute unforgiving a*****e over her addiction, in the thoroughly mistaken belief that we were doing her good the only way we could. This had the only effect it could possibly have, it reinforced her addiction like steel in concrete.

      • Kevin, I am sorry for your loss. Your post has stirred such raw emotion that I both thank you and curse you. Those who have suffered a loss to addiction only know. I echo Keller

  2. I know several poor addicts that moved to Florida for much better drug rehabs than Massachusetts offers. Residency in Florida can be very swift including getting insurance.

    • Are you an advocate of better rehabs in Massachusetts?
      How should they be funded?
      Is the drug overdose rate lower in Florida?

  3. Harm reduction techniques are also key in reducing fatal overdose rates. Fentanyl Test Strips and Narcan are preventative measures that are effective and, wait for it, FREE.

    • Brian– I went to the pharmacy a while ago and asked
      for some Narcan that I could keep in my car in
      case I came across someone overdosing. But I
      didn’t want to spring for the $150 they wanted for it.
      Where can I get it for free , or even under $20. ?

      • Don, this is an excellent point. Anything that can make the good Samaritans have an easier time of things I am in favor of.

        • James– thank you for the advice. Amazon had it for
          about $40 for a 2 pack, but then i was inspired to
          look around a bit more and found the exact same
          thing with an expiration within a month ( june of 26 )
          for $10 with free shipping. It’s on its way–
          For that kind of price, and simple directions to administer
          it, I hope others will also do this.
          And by the way, I am certified in CPR– I took a class last year
          for the first time since college–the information has
          changed. it seems that for some reason , i have been hanging out
          with old people lately– I don’t know , it might have something to do
          with the fact I am 72. Not likely i will be having any more friends
          dying from od’s.( 4 is enough) But you know, that heart attack risk is going
          up. the CPR class was fun, inexpensive and very informative.
          i certainly hope i will never have to use CPR or Narcan
          on anyone, but i was a boy scout… I don’t know how I would
          get over it if I helplessly watched a friend die from a heart attack
          or a stranger die from an OD while waiting for the EMT’s …
          seconds matter.

    • I hesitate to disagree with the good doctor, but technically Narcan is not a preventive measure — yes, it can possibly prevent death, but it does not address the baseline problem of addiction. Family members and friends of opiate addicts should have Narcan on hand to treat an overdose, but Narcan will not prevent an overdose from occurring in the first place.

      • Juleann- I don’t see anything in this article where the good doctor
        says anything about preventing OD’s, except of course good
        advice to his patients. The article is focused on preventing

        • Don — I assumed the Brian Morris who posted the forum note above was the same DOCTOR Brian Morris quoted in the article. Within this forum he called Narcan a “preventive measure” and I think that is misleading. I realize the article was about preventing death — which Narcan can do — but I believe the larger goal should be to prevent overdosing in the first place and Narcan does nothing to address that. Narcan is a useful tool in an emergency, but it does not put out the fire that started the blaze in the first place.

  4. The first key to ending opiate-related deaths is to close our borders to the alien invasion of drug/human smugglers, criminals and terrorists from enemy nations. Second, mass deportation of millions of aliens to secure our future.

    • Roy– there’s always someone who will just blame it on
      foreigners. But it’s not often that they will come right out
      and spew xenophobic hatred like you are here.
      Do you really think for one second that deporting
      millions of “aliens” will stop a junkie from getting a fix ?

      • Lets suppose we had 2 million Taliban illegally in the US and we deported all of them. Yes out country would be morally left a bit more advanced wouldnt it? Taliban who dont support female education or right to work or to worship other religions and who believe in genocide of infidels. Would it be xenophobic hatred to deport them? I dont think so. Before you accuse me of equating Taliban with illegal immigration, I simply want to state that the principle of deporting bad people is sound. That is. why we have vetting. Some cultures are better than others.

        • “some cultures are better than others”
          HMMMM– nothing racist in that comment.
          So now I see why you base your opinions not on someone’s
          moral character, but rather
          on the color of their skin , their country of
          origin or their religious beliefs.
          Thank you for that clear explanation.
          Yup– no question about it I guess,

      • Don, Your response is offensive to me. I am not spewing hatred to any one. Deporting millions of UNVETTED aliens will definitely reduce the flow of drugs, human trafficking, rapes, murders, armed robberies, shoplifting in every major city. Biden’s failed leftist open border policy is letting in million UNVETTED, UNTRACEABLE criminal.

        • Roy — calling people “aliens” and implying they are all criminals and terrorists IS spewing hatred. I agree there is a need to revise the current “asylum” system, the misguided policy which allows an unmanageable number of illegal immigrants to enter with impunity. This cannot be tolerated any longer — it’s long past time for the Democratic party to adjust their party platform on this issue.

    • Perhaps neither you or anyone in your family has had the misfortune to become addicted to drugs — or alcohol? You show little sympathy for such people. An addiction is an illness. “Alien invasion” is not the cause of drug addiction. Nor are “criminals and terrorists from enemy nations.” This is the current thinking of Mr. Trump and his sycophants. If the demand in the United States were not so high, the drug trafficking would be less.

      • Ms Crafts I agree the demand is high but the supply caused the demand to begin with. If one creates huge supply at low cost it creates more demand. So yes, drug lords and criminals from enemy nations cause a lot of this.

        • Andrew, please. There is no supply without demand.
          Americans demand opiates.
          (Every hospital in America has Fentanyl on the shelf, many people over 60 have used it, medicinally, to rid themselves of pain).
          They huge supply is created by demand, free market capitalism.
          The demand will be met, within price elasticity, domestic or foreign.
          Laws did not stop weed.

          • Hess you are once again incorrect. Yes Hospitals have opiates. I had fentanyal administered to me last week. You expect us to believe that if all of a sudden electric vehicles showed up at 10k each as Ms Hansen wants, that there would be no crowd to buy them. Yes there is overuse and misuse of opiates in the US but young people, addicts, homeless, crooks and all manner of dissolute miscreants experimenting are the largest users of illegal drugs from Cartels and this didnt happen in the 50’s and 60’s. It exploded when Cartels saw that experimentation is rife in the USA.

          • Andrew, you’re right. People would be lining up around the block to buy electric cars if they were only $10k. Electric luxury cars can be built for $30k. The car manufacturers are fleecing us.
            Here’s an article about solar panels. For about $20k, most people can install a full-home system and run an electric car, which would pay for itself in about three (yes, 3) years.


        • andy– I had no idea the Sackler family was from
          “an enemy nation”. of course they were/are drug lords and
          criminals– everyone knows that , but I have to admit
          that I had no idea they were from an “enemy nation”
          That stupid fake internet thingie says they are “an American
          Perhaps you could cut through that “fake” narrative and tell
          us what “enemy” country they are actually from ?
          I heard a rumor they were from Latvia.

        • andy– I wonder what you think about large
          international chemical companies selling poison to
          third world countries ?
          Let me just remind you about the Bhopal chemical
          “Estimates vary on the death toll, with the official number of immediate deaths being 2,259. In 2008, the Government of Madhya Pradesh paid compensation to the family members of 3,787 victims killed in the gas release, and to 574,366 injured victims.[1] A government affidavit in 2006 stated that the leak caused 558,125 injuries, including 38,478 temporary partial injuries and approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries.[5] Others estimate that 8,000 died within two weeks, and another 8,000 or more have since died from gas-related diseases.[6] ”
          Somebody created a cheap supply of poison, and the demand grew.
          I don’t see any difference between the chemical companies
          and drug manufacturers. Are the salespersons who sell
          these poisons to unsuspecting third world countries any
          better than the smugglers at the southern border ?
          But I guess if they are white and wear ties, they are, right ?

          • Keller you know very little about the Bhopal disaster. It has been litigated and fines paid. It is 40 years old and all your statistics are incorrect. You should also know it was a sabotage of a chemical reaction. You are spewing speculations. I was the CEO of that Chemical Company in Venezuela when that accident happened in India and I know all the facts about it and reading the Indian Times doesnt cut it.

    • You mean the people bringing in slaves?
      How many generations are you away from being an alien?
      Were the Pilgrims aliens?

      • Hess what is it you dont understand about the world ”illegal”? Waiting in line and doing the paperwork and requesting permission is how most countries protect their borders and quantify immigration. I waited 19 years to become a citizen. Most can do it in 5 years.

        • andy– what is it you don’t understand about
          “legal” asylum ?
          “Is seeking asylum legal?
          Yes, seeking asylum is legal. Asylum seekers must be in the U.S. or at a port of entry (an airport or an official land crossing) to request the opportunity to apply for asylum.

          “There’s no way to ask for a visa or any type of authorization in advance for the purpose of seeking asylum,” says Byrne. “You just have to show up.”

          How clear is that, andy ? They are “legal”– every time.
          Yeah, I know, you don’t like the law, and are fully dedicated
          to the political party that ignores laws they don’t like.
          To paraphrase your orange fuhrer when he spoke
          about Americans killed in wars, by his
          reasoning you are apparently a “loser
          and a sucker” for waiting so long. You could have simply
          stowed away on a ship, and applied for asylum. And even though
          you actually were from an “enemy” country, we would have let you
          in, and you could have been a citizen in 7 years.

          • Keller. Venezuela is emptying their prisons and sending us their finest. That is a FACT. Something you pride yourself on.

    • Roy, since most illicit drugs arrive in shipping containers, then it would be difficult to do. Are you suggesting that we isolate the United States 🇺🇸 completely? No one comes in or out? And what do we do about the illicit drug manufacturing in the US?

      • Mary– I have no doubt there would be many people
        in this country that would be more than happy
        to be ruled by a great leader that no one would be
        able to criticize and completely close the
        borders. it works for North Korea , after all.
        From what I have read, nearly every person who has
        been a traitor to their country by fleeing N.K have said that
        they were convinced that the standard of living there
        was as good as anywhere in the world.
        And just look at andy’s comments about domestic drugs
        if you are worried about that. No problem.

    • What about the criminal and terrorists who are born and bred right here in our own nation? Where are the Sacklers, the Astors, Purdue Pharma, and the hundreds of physicians who wrote the scripts that got people hooked in the first place. Roy, methinks you have not been paying close attention . . .

  5. These comments are so sad, so uneducated and lack the compassion for this serious health issue. Where is the humanity, for those born in the U.S.A., without judgement for those less fortunate. Very sad and not helpful.

    • Sorry Virginia but there is something to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. For those who chose to take illegal drugs and become addicted must suffer the consequences. Unfortunately the true victims are their loved ones. Sadly I must count myself as losing a loved one to addiction. Nothing more selfish than squandering one’s life using drugs and hurting those who love them most.

      • Carl- over my life I have lost 4 close friends to drugs.
        I can with you about Darwin only to a point. Once you are
        hooked, there is no understanding of the effects your
        behavior is having on loved ones. The drug takes over, and
        no amount of reasoning can dislodge it.
        I’s a hard trap to get out of. I have a high level of respect
        for those who escape, and compassion for those who can’t.
        As a society, we need to do more than blame the addict, or blame
        “others” that we clearly think are less human than us. Roy’s
        comment is disgusting on many levels. We need to call out that
        kind of hateful racist rhetoric wherever it happens.
        But you know, Rachel Lee Cook updated her famous 1986
        “this is your brain” ad.
        It clearly addresses the damage to those around the addicted.

      • once again, very sad, not helpful and not understanding with compassion, not in general. We are human, no two alike.

        • I have plenty of compassion. I only wish those who knew taking illegal drugs had the same compassion for me. They made the choice knowing the consequences. Save your compassion for those who have to deal with the fallout.

    • Ms Yorke. some people get addicted through legal prescription drugs given them for intractable pain. Yes that is true. But what we are talking about in general is people taking the first step and experimenting with illegal drugs and THEN becoming addicted. There is a consequence for that bad judgment and please dont tell us all of us are capable of this judgment.

  6. People are born addicts just like some people are born allergic to poison ivy. You can’t really blame the addict for touching the poison ivy but if we have criminals bringing in the “poison ivy”, mostly through our open borders today, we can at least slow down the carnage by controlling the borders. That is indisputable. It’s sad that those who hate Trump no matter what continue to promote these open borders just to spite him.

    • John– you might have noticed that over the past 6 months there was a bi-partisan
      plan to do something about the border other than shoot them.
      you have it completely ass -backwards– and you know it. Congress
      was ready to pass comprehensive border control legislation until the
      Fuhrer stepped in and leaned on the boot licking republicans
      to defeat it so it would make Brandon look bad. And you twist it and claim the
      democrats are for an “open border” .
      Come on– you can have your opinions, and i will respect them, but i will also call
      you out when you lie. Especially when you know you are lying.
      And really– what percentage of drugs comes across the southern border
      on the backs of smugglers ? I’ll put that at way less than 1%
      Did the Sackler family pay smugglers to carry drugs across the border ?
      Are American companies so stupid they can’t make drugs ?
      Or are your race baiting drum beating rants about “others ” just a bunch
      of red meat designed to reinforce the racial hatred that we know is
      well entrenched in this country ?

      • Keller, you know as well as anyone that drug cartels operate in Latin America and bring drugs in illegal by the billions of dollars. To equate Pharmaceutical companies with drug smugglers is dumb. Yes, people have become addicted from domestic legal drugs, however the largest cause of addiction in the US is from illegal drugs. That is a fact and to call John a liar is preposterous. To suggest we do not have defacto an open border is not a FACT. To suggest Congress did this and Trump killed it is not a FACT. If a Democratic President and his Senate puts forth legislation that sounds good but doesnt solve the problem at the Border it will be killed by the other side for good reason. Biden is responsible for the millions of illegals here in the US in the last 4 years. That is a fact. Were other Presidents responsible also. Yes. That is a FACT.

      • Albert, this is a tricky number. The CDC
        has some information regarding
        Xylazine (a non-opioid sedative that can cause death, with no antidote—narcan won’t help), increasingly found in illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Maybe we need
        drug facilities where people can get high
        in a regulated environment instead of
        using street drugs. Maybe nurses
        could monitor heart rate, etc.

    • Actually, people may be born with a gene that predisposes them to develop a substance use disorder. It’s the environment they are raised in that date®mines if that genetic switch is turned on.

      “Genetics play a key role in determining health throughout our lives, but they are not destiny. Our hope with genomic studies is to further illuminate factors that may protect or predispose a person to substance use disorders – knowledge that can be used to expand preventative services and empower individuals to make informed decisions about drug use,” – Nora Volkow, MD, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
      Link to the NIH study:

    • John, addiction is not an allergy.
      Given enough opiates everyone will become addicted, some will need more than others.
      What percentage of opiates consumed in the US come in over the Mexican border?
      Americans have plenty of reasons to hate Trump that have nothing to do with Trump’s failed wall.
      J6, classified documents and sex workers come to mind.
      Did all 12 of Trump’s homies get it wrong?
      Do they hate him?

  7. Naloxone on the Vineyard:

    Health Imperatives (Vineyard Haven)
    517 State Road, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568

    Hours of Operation: M,W,Th: 9:00am – 4:00pm; Tuesday: 11:00am – 6:00pm
    Contact Information: 508-693-1208

    Basic Needs:
    Supplies and Services: Fentanyl Test Strips, Naloxone (Narcan), Safe Sex Supplies, Safer Pipes / Smoking Supplies, Syringe collection/disposal, Syringe distribution, Xylazine Test Strips
    Testing and Treatment: HCV treatment, HIV/HCV/STI testing, MOUD (Medications for Opioid Use Disorder), Vaccinations, Wound care
    Education and Support: Behavioral health services referral, Housing service referral, Medical service referral, OEND Training & Education, Recovery service referral, STI prevention & Education
    Very good info here – where to get it – usually for free or charged to your MassHealth or insurance if you have it. No one should have to pay for it! MA pharmacies have a standing order from Mass DPH to dispense Narcan on request.

    And sorry – no one is born an addict. Old wives tale.

    • Mary–“most”? —Sorry, but you give too much latitude to the racist
      here with that comment. Technically that could mean 51 % are families
      and 49 % are drug smugglers. And those a-holes we are dealing with
      will claim that
      the families are smuggling drugs in the baby bottles and wipes .
      But the reality is a vanishingly small fraction of less than 1% are actually
      smuggling drugs. I hope that makes it clearer — Not necessarily for you,
      but for those racist xenophobes who know who they are.

      • Don, respectfully there is nothing legal about hundreds of thousands that are crossing the border who aren’t giving themselves up. And it’s illegal to lie to federal law enforcement and to lie on official forms about the reasons they are claiming asylum. They are coming for jobs and a better life. Not asylum. Just ask Hunter Biden about lying on a federal form. It’s a crime.

    • Mary, please turn on the TV or go the department of HS to,look at the stats of the people who are doing here. Single men. That’s a fact.

  8. Don I had the same problem going to the pharmacy to be told that was the price then I searched around and Mvfp Martha’s Vineyard Family Planning has free Narcan for those in need basically you just give them your name and a little bit more information..

  9. Wrong Mary, Most aliens are not families with children. PEW Research reported “In December 2023, most encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border (54%) involved migrants traveling as single adults” Mass invasion of our country is an act of war, our presidents failure to protect our country is treason. Stop this invasion now. VOTE RED. VOTE MAGA.

  10. Roy, the American economy is the powerhouse
    of the world! Our GDP is 40% stronger than
    China, the second largest economy, and
    more than 500%!!!! of the next two economies,
    Japan and Germany.
    That is only possible from immigration.
    If we turn away immigrants, we turn away
    Money. Yours and mine.,the%20economies%20of%20the%20world.&text=America's%20gross%20domestic%20product%20in,largest%20economies%2C%20Japan%20and%20Germany.

  11. I don’t mean to be rude or anything and say that the
    opinions of some people here about who is smuggling
    dangerous drugs into our country, but the fact of the matter
    is that “i have seen the enemy and he is us”.
    Now i know that willfully ignorant xenophobic people
    will fall back on their allegations that what I am posting here is not true–
    they love to call facts” fake” after all.
    So I hope I don’t hurt anyone’s feeling because i am
    offended by their racist lies, and am taking the time to
    publicly expose them for not knowing anything about
    what they are talking about– ok == maybe they know a little
    “Who Is Smuggling Illicit Drugs?
    Evidence indicates that illicit fentanyl is primarily brought to the U.S. by American citizens and usually through legal ports of entry. The calculation is simple: illicit drug smuggling organization are likely to prefer U.S. citizens as smugglers because they are less likely to raise alarms or undergo additional vetting when re-entering the U.S. through a legal port.

    The U.S. Sentencing Commission recently released an annual report on incidents related to fentanyl trafficking. In fiscal year (FY) 2022, 19,851 drug trafficking offenses were reported to the Commission. Of these, 2,362 (about 12 percent) were fentanyl-trafficking cases. This represents a steady increase since FY 2018, when there were only 422 reported offenders – an increase of about 460 percent in four years. The report shows that most fentanyl trafficking offenders in FY 2022 were U.S. citizens (88 percent). The vast majority were men (82 percent), with an average age of 35 years. A large proportion (40 percent) had little or no prior criminal history.”
    need a source for that ? OK ;
    I look forward to some criticism of this one.
    But please– don’t show me some rant by a nut case Putin lover that
    was fired by one of the most conservative “entertainment” networks
    for blatant lying. I already saw the clip from however he identifies
    (insert pronoun here _____ )
    about how the “illegals” are making our country “dirtier”.
    I think he may have overdosed on tanning his testicles, or maybe
    a worm ate part of his brain… a big part–
    Either way, it would be nice to have a coherent reply.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Don, follow the money but I would check your source. Stick with the pro’s in this case the DEA. This clearly tells you that it’s not US citizens being the smugglers.
      But you are correct without buyers you have no sellers. It’s our fault. And when I say follow the money the amount of legitimate companies making money off the illegal drug trade is mind numbing. Lawyers, doctors, big pharma, insurance companies, banks, Wall Street. We spent trillions fighting illegal drug problems and trillions of illegal money is now washed and invested into legitimate businesses.

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