An arrest this week of a man coming off the ferry with what police allege was one hundred and three grams of the dangerous narcotic fentanyl should be a wake-up call to anyone who doubts we have a serious problem on Martha’s Vineyard.

Of the many synthetic opioids that have found their way into the illegal drug trade in recent years, none is more deadly than fentanyl. Fifty times more powerful than heroin, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, it is responsible for a skyrocketing rate of overdose deaths in the last several years, especially in the Northeast. It is often mixed with heroin and other drugs, making them both more addictive and more likely to cause sudden death.

More than sixty-four thousand people died in 2016 nationwide from drug overdoses, a staggering twenty two per cent increase from the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The biggest culprit was fentanyl. Deaths involving fentanyl literally doubled last year, from less than ten thousand to more than twenty thousand.

The DEA estimates that just one kilogram of pure fentanyl is equal to half a million deadly doses. Using that measure, the hundred and three grams seized this week by the Martha’s Vineyard Drug Task Force translates to fifty one thousand potentially fatal doses that had been on their way to market on Martha’s Vineyard.

Addiction is a horrific disease that robs those who suffer from it of their free will, their dignity and often their lives. Drug trafficking is an appalling crime, preying on people’s vulnerabilities with a callous indifference to the consequences.

Stopping any illegal opioids from reaching our shores is an accomplishment, and the drug task force, and Islandwide law enforcement coalition, deserves credit for its vigilance. But more must be done at every level of government if we are to really turn the tide on the flow of illicit drugs.