We have lost over 1,100 British Columbians in the past 10 months due to overdoses. 1,100 people. How is that possible? That is an 83% increase from last year and the numbers continue to rise. The majority of people (according to CBC News) who lost their lives were as a result of Fentanyl laced heroin, opioids, cocaine, and methamphetamines. These numbers represent BC statistics alone, thousands more have died across Canada. It is estimated, that 8 people a day are now are dying in BC.
There are so many misconceptions about addiction and who is being effected by this current crisis. We need to start talking more about how some of these addictions start. What about the accidental addicts? What about the ones who prior to visiting their doctor, had never done drugs and are about to see just how real drug addiction can be?
What happens when as a patient, you get told one day with no warning, that you will no longer be prescribed these meds? As more attention gets brought to the public about today’s opiod and fentanyl epidemic, doctors are afraid to keep writing these prescriptions. It takes just a few short hours of missing a dose, until a patient will start feeling the painful symptoms of withdrawal. The pain they initially were being treated for, has now tripled as a result of being cut off their meds. This is happening to more and more people each day, and worse this is happening with no plan or alternative course of action to treat their pain and addiction. An intricate and monitored patient plan must be in place and alternative treatment made readily available to begin treating addiction with care. Doctors need to be held accountable for prescribing lethal medications. There is an immediate need for public awareness about the deadly effects of opiates and narcotic addiction and the province needs to provide access to physical and emotional therapy for those who don’t have access to extended health services. We often times have faith that medical practitioners should not be questioned. This is the furthest thing from the truth.
Addicts are not just the homeless people we see living in camps or the people you see on Hastings St on your way to a night out on the town. Addicts are hiding in silence everywhere. They are your neighbors, friends, brothers, sisters, teachers, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, and might even be you. Social media sites have replaced real conversations and face to face interaction. We don’t see what is really happening to the people hiding behind their phones and laptop screens. We need to be having conversations with our children daily about the danger of pills. The use of pills such as Xanax and Oxycodone is glorified in today’s youth culture, and alcohol is no longer one of our biggest fears when it comes to the safety of our kids.
Addiction is not black and white. Everyday people walk into their doctors office with injuries sustained after a sport injury, vehicle accident, workplace fall, and many times for back pain. Too often people are prescribed strong narcotics like oxycodone, morphine, etc and walk out the door of their doctors office having no idea that their life is about to change forever.
Too many patients are being prescribed these deadly and highly addictive drugs. Overprescribing has been an issue for decades and now we are witnessing first hand, the raw and devastating effects of this practice. Doctors are prescribing without informing patients of the dangers of these deadly drugs and the long term effects on your emotional and physical health. You don’t get told, that after just days of being on these meds, that your body will already start craving more and that without even knowing it, you have already become an addict.
How does one go from simply taking a legal prescription to taking street drugs? The BC College of Physicians has been sending warnings to doctors that they will be investigating physicians who are prescribing opiates for patients who do not require such strong medication. As more deaths are recorded daily, doctors are fearful that they will be investigated, lose their license, and rapidly cut off their patients from their meds. This is where we see the extreme increase of deaths associated with street drugs. People that once would never dream of purchasing street drugs, are now, out of desperation, forced to find a way to keep from getting sick and end up dying from Fentanyl laced drugs. Oxycodone on the street is very expensive. Heroin becomes a cheaper alternative and before you know it, you have become a criminal buying illegal drugs. Drugs that will inevitably take your life.
If you talk to anyone addicted to these drugs, they will tell you that the withdrawal symptoms make you feel as though you are dying. Your stomach grips you from the inside, you lose full muscle control, you can’t sleep, can’t eat, you have the shakes, uncontrollable muscle spasms, and will do almost anything to get rid of the pain.
I have been to three funerals in the past few months, where the loss of life was a result of an overdose. Everyday I fear that I will recieve the news, that someone else I know and love will have died.
I see a man almost everyday on my way to work, that is addicted to heroin. Over the past 5 years, I would say he has become my friend. I see him struggle everyday and awake daily to start his seemlessly endless journey of finding his next fix. He cannot work, he cannot enjoy life. His only mission is to get enough drugs to feel “normal” or as addicts say, keep from getting “dope sick”. You see, after the initial few times of trying heroin, you will never get that same high that you felt the first time. You will spend your time chasing that high just trying to keep from getting sick. This is an endless cycle and one that thousands of Canadians face each day.
I have tried so many times to help this man. I have driven him on many mornings to get his methadone. I have spent countless hours trying to give him hope and provide support. He doesn’t want to live this way. He doesn’t want to steal to feed his habit. I can see the shame and despair in his eyes. I am afraid of the day, that I come to work, and he isn’t there. I won’t see him walking down the road where I see him walking each morning. I will learn that he has died and I know I didn’t do enough to help him. I need to do something more than I am doing right now, to bring attention to this issue and be a part of finding a solution.
I spend a lot of time trying to find the answers to addiction. What as a society can we do to help these people who don’t know where to turn for help? Where does it start and how as a country did we let this happen? I cannot bare to think of the numbers of deaths that will be reported next year, if we do not act now and make this issue a priority in our country.
I am going to continue to write about this issue and will soon release a book called “Rock Bottom has a Basement” that highlights my personal story of being prescribed narcotics to treat my pain and how it effected my life in ways I could never have imagined.
It is time to let go of shame. Tell our own personal stories and bring light to situations that may not be easy to discuss. It is time that we stand together as a nation, to support our fellow Canadians and ensure that we have a voice for those who may not be able to speak out. We spend so much of our time talking about what is happening in other countries, while here we are, facing one of the largest drug epidemics in Canada’s history.
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