Pubdate: Mon, 18 Jan 2016
Source: Capilano Courier, The (CN BC Edu)
Contact:  2016 The Capilano Courier
Author: Therese Guieb


Mother of Former Student Advocates for Better Drug Policies in Canada

Jennifer Woodside never saw her son Dylan graduate from Capilano 
University. The 21-year-old passed away in April 2014 due to overdose 
of OxyContin laced with fentanyl. His classmates from the Studio Arts 
program would attend their convocation without him.

Woodside hopes that with enough awareness the same tragedy will not 
be experienced by others. As a result, she co-founded a coalition 
called mumsDu to advocate for better drug policies in Canada and to 
combat the perils of recreational narcotic use. "It's a coalition of 
mothers. We all lost a child to the form of substance abuse," she 
explained. "It's not a self-help group. It's an advocacy group and a 
voice for the family and friends of victims both nationally and 
globally to address drug policy."

The number of illicit drug overdoses continues to spike rapidly with 
465 deaths last year compared to 366 deaths in 2014 - a 27 per cent 
increase according to a report by the BC Coroners Service. In 
December 2015, there were 62 deaths in BC alone due to illicit drug overdoses.

Illicit drugs are classified as street drugs, recreational drugs, 
medications that were not prescribed and drug contents that are 
unknown. Synthetic drugs are the most common culprit behind many of 
the overdoses in the past year. According to the National Institute 
on Drug Abuse, synthetic drugs are man-made and are oftentimes mixed 
with multiple compounds that produce unknown effects to the user. An 
example of this drug is fentanyl, a synthetic opiate that is usually 
used as a painkiller and is stronger than morphine.

"Fentanyl... was developed for [a person] who's at the end of his 
life, so if you had cancer. It's an extremely potent painkiller," 
said Woodside. "They make the drug, they send it into Canada, and 
then they make the pill here. When they add the fentanyl when making 
these pills you don't know the percentage of the fentanyl that's 
going in the pill," she added.

In Dylan's case, he had taken a pill that had fentanyl but was masked 
as OxyContin, a painkiller. "So you could take a pill that they've 
masked as Oxy[Contin], and they don't know that it has fentanyl. You 
could take one tablet one day and be fine, and then another time take 
half a tablet and it could kill you, because it might all be 
concentrated in that area of the pill you took," noted Woodside. 
According to Woodside, it is important that users are educated with 
the drugs that they are ingesting and parents should open a 
conversation with their children about the use of recreational drugs. 
"The majority of young adults are going to experiment," she argued. 
"My son knew his source, but your source doesn't know what's in it. 
He is getting it from somebody else. And maybe knowing your source is 
good to a certain degree, compared to buying it from somebody off the 
street, but the odds are still against you."

Since a drug overdose is something that happens unpredictably, 
especially with the increase of laced drugs, one of the policies that 
mumsDu is advocating for is instant access to Naloxone or Narcan 
kits. These kits are used for immediate reversal of the effects of 
opiate drugs like OxyContin and fentanyl. "It's like an Epipen. You 
jab it in the leg and administer it and a training course that goes 
along with it," said Woodside. Health Canada has recently announced 
that an amendment proposal has been made to allow Naloxone to be used 
without a prescription for emergency use. Health Canada created the 
amendment in the hopes of combatting the increase of opioid overdose 
in the country.

Woodside believes that death from drug overdose is both senseless and 
preventable. "It's already happened to a Cap student, and you don't 
want your mother walking across that stage to get your degree 
posthumously... If it happened to Dylan and to your average North 
Shore family, it can happen to anyone."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom