Earlier this month, a commercial fishing captain was arrested in a drug bust at a private home in Monroe County, Florida, according to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), members of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, the US Border Patrol, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation all took part and found nine packages of cocaine individually wrapped and ready for resale. The amount of the drugs added up to 11.9 grams of cocaine, and a range of drug paraphernalia including scales and plastic bags was confiscated as well, indicating that the drugs were likely meant for resale.
Drug use among fishermen is nothing new in Florida or in any area of the country with a large fishing industry. The job is high-risk, stressful, and requires periods of intensive energy as well as long working hours. Often spending weeks or months away from families, it is easy to lose a connection with a balanced and healthy life.
When addiction strikes, it can be doubly risky for fishermen. Not only are they at risk of accident and overdose just like everyone else living with an addiction, but the dangerous nature of their job means that being under the influence on the boat can cost them dearly due to accident.
- Job-related injury may increase the risk of addiction. Injury is common for fishermen as the job involves precarious conditions, heavy equipment, ropes, and a constantly shifting surface. To manage associated pain, many fishermen will use prescription painkillers – the window through which hundreds of thousands of Americans have entered a deadly opiate addiction. Long-term use of these pills can lead to physical dependence, and misuse of the drugs can contribute to the development of an addiction that can ultimately be deadly.
- Drinking on the job is the norm in the fishing industry. Both on season and off, it is normal to find a fisherman with a beer in hand. For better or worse, many find the bar to be a home away from home – and a home away from boat – and tend to stock alcohol heavily on long fishing trips. It passes the time on the boat when in transit and the time at home between runs. It is used to celebrate a good haul and to deal with the frustration of a poor haul. In many fishing communities, drinking goes hand in hand with fishing, and many find one through the other.
- In fact, use of all substances is the norm in the fishing industry. Use of methamphetamine and other stimulants is common, especially on the boat when it may be necessary to stay up for long hours processing a big haul over a period of days. If there is not enough room or funds to support multiple shifts of workers, many fishermen instead work and sleep in shifts and take substances to sustain them.
- The job attracts people who are looking for something outside of the “norm.” Fishermen are averse to doing things the way most people do them. They like the adventure of the sea, and they are willing to take risks that others would go out of their way to avoid. As a result, they may be more likely to try other things that most people would view as too risky like using drugs to stay up and work long, hard hours or drinking heavily as a form of relaxation when the work is done.
- It is possible to stay sober and continue to fish. Some fishermen feel that because substance use is so ingrained in the job, it is impossible to stay sober and continue to fish. The good news is that many fishermen are doing exactly that. Though it takes some time to get accustomed to, it is possible to maintain both a career as a fishermen and sobriety comfortably.
A strong start in recovery begins with an intensive treatment program designed to meet the needs of people who are struggling with substance use and abuse and dealing with other challenges – like employment in the fishing industry – that may make it more difficult for them to stay sober.
Are you ready to take the first step toward getting your life back under control through treatment?