Department or Program



Since the beginning of the twenty-first century the rate of opioid overdoses in the United States has increased dramatically (CDC 2017a) and daily is responsible for over 100 deaths (CDC 2017e). The opioid epidemic is pervasive and affects people of all backgrounds, but rural America has been hit particularly hard with rural drug overdose death rates exceeding urban rates (CDC 2017a). Maine, the state with the highest percentage of people living in rural areas in the country, (Wickenheiser 2012) saw 354 deaths due to opioid overdoses alone in 2017 (Russell 2018). Situated within this context a newspaper series found that the opioid epidemic is especially prevalent in Maine’s lobster fishing communities (Overton 2017). While this observation is consistent with nationwide trends of rural drug use and literature on Deaths of Despair, there is little formal knowledge about why the lobstering community is particularly affected by opioid use (Case and Deaton 2015). To provide a more systematic understanding of this phenomenon, this study aims to: 1) examine the drivers behind opioid use in the lobster fishing industry and 2) identify opioid prevention and recovery techniques that are most effective for the lobster fishing community. These questions were explored using a qualitative study design. Semi-formal interviews were conducted in three Maine lobster fishing communities with lobster fishers and community members (N=20). Results found that the drivers for opioid use were largely consistent and industry specific and included: ability to purchase drugs, boredom, work injury and work environment. There was inconsistency in the prevention and treatment options available in the communities investigated, though there was uniformity among barriers mentioned.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Rocque, Michael

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Open Access

Available to all.