PENDER ISLAND (NEWS 1130) – A mother on Pender Island wants to remind us that for every drug overdose death, there are grieving families, friends and coworkers.
The coroner’s service says 175 lives were lost during the month of June, due to overdoses. It’s the highest number of illicit drug toxicity deaths ever recorded in a single month in BC. It’s also a 130 per cent increase over the number of deaths in June of 2019.
“I and all my fellow moms who lost kids and loved ones are devastated by this. That’s 175 more families that are in deep grief,” says Leslie McBain, who co-founded the group Moms Stop the Harm.
McBain’s son died of an overdose in 2014. Jordan became addicted to painkillers after a back injury.
Part of McBain’s work now is to console families going through what she went through.
“I was just at a funeral on Sunday of a young man who died of overdose. There were over 100 people. The man was 26-years-old. It was very, very sad,” she says.
McBain also points out that the deaths often represent frustrated efforts — sometimes years worth — of families trying to get their loved ones treatment for their addictions.
“Many of these families have known for years that their loved one has struggled with addiction. They’ve done everything – so much – to save the lives of their kids and their loved ones.”
And throughout that time, families live in fear that their relatives will be the next unlucky ones to use a tainted drug.
“We have the added the component of fentanyl. No matter how many times a person goes into a recovery program and then relapses, with fentanyl, every time your son or daughter is out there, it’s Russian Roulette. They are risking their lives.”
She stresses COVID is not creating more addicts, but closed borders are affecting the illicit drug supply, making it more toxic. Plus she says fears over gatherings have deterred addicts from going to safe injection sites.
“People who have been afraid to use safe injection sites have been afraid to go use the facilities, because they are afraid of COVID. So people are using illicit drugs alone,” she says.
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The only way to stop the deaths, says McBain, is to give people with substance use disorder a safe drug supply.
“We hear this all the time. It rubs people the wrong way to think of giving people who are addicted more drugs. But we need to keep these people alive so that they can seek treatment.”
She says she’s encouraged by Canada’s chiefs of police recently coming out in support of decriminalizing illicit drugs.
“What this says is that they no longer want to arrest people who are holding medicine – and that’s what I’m going to call it because that’s what they need to not go into withdrawal. It’s not a crime to use what you need to not get sick.”