Pubdate: Fri, 01 Sep 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Leslie McBain
Page: S1


On Feb. 4, 2014, my only child died - alone - of an accidental

Jordan's death was a shock. It still is. Looking back, with the
benefit of hindsight, I can connect the dots that led our happy,
outgoing child to become addicted to opioids. Each of those dots
represents an opportunity missed, a lesson to be learned. It's time
those lessons be applied.

Today, Jordan's experience - and ours as parents - is, sadly and
unnecessarily, a common one. At the time, however, we were lost in the
uncertainty of how to help our son.

Jordan was a happy baby, inquisitive and active. His early years were
full of travel, adventure, joy, friendships and family. Once he
started school, he was happy and social. He loved his teachers. He was
funny and popular, becoming a leader of his peers. But the first
troubling signs emerged. His antics disrupted the classroom, his
reading skills were below average and he was not a team player. At
home, he had occasional brief rages that consisted of yelling in
intense frustration over a seemingly insignificant thing.

Come high school, Jordan began partying with his friends. It was
typical behaviour, except for the excessive amount of pot and alcohol
he and his friends consumed. We did our best to talk to him about his
substance use and about the dangers of addiction. By the age of 19, he
was an alcoholic and a cigarette smoker. He was also using cocaine.

This is where the dots began to accumulate and cluster. First, a
three-month stay in rehab cut short at six weeks. His substance use
began again soon after. Then, an injury on the job and a prescription
to Oxycodone to manage the pain.

Alarmed, I reached out to his prescribing doctor, who ignored my pleas
for some other, less addictive treatment. We watched helplessly as his
business declined while his obsession with obtaining more of the
painkiller increased, becoming all-consuming. His doctor cut him off
from the medication without support for withdrawal or recovery. He was
left alone to manage both his pain and his new addiction.

Jordan turned to the streets to seek opioids. Finally, we were able to
get him into rehab for a second time. This time, detox for 12 days,
after which he emerged still suffering from painful withdrawal. We
could find no postdetox support.

Seven weeks after detox, in a terrible state of withdrawal, Jordan
relapsed - this time with fatal consequences. We are stunned by the
loss of our son.

The dots are clear now: the untreated anxiety as a child that led him
to self-medicate; the failure of Jordan's physician to find space to
consult with and listen to his patient's family; the absence of
support for Jordan post-detox, when he was most vulnerable to relapse
and, therefore, most at risk of overdose.

The lessons are clear, too. We must empower families by increasing the
inclusion of, and support for, family caregivers of drug-dependent
loved ones. We must increase capacity for rapid access to treatment in
the province.

Individuals who seek treatment need immediate attention. We must
greatly increase capacity to train all health-care professionals in
treating substance-use disorder and concurrent mental health
disorders, with evidence-based pathways.

We must make every effort to eliminate the stigma associated with
substance use.

Lastly, we must work to decriminalize the possession and use of
illicit drugs.

Four years ago, the path someone such as Jordan took wouldn't always
end tragically. Life would have continued on, shattered though it may
have been. But the possibility of hope remained, however faintly it
may have glimmered. Today, the increasingly poisonous drug supply is
unforgiving. It has rendered addiction and substance use a
life-and-death proposition. Every time a substance is consumed, the
spectre of death hangs in the air.

The stakes have always been high, but they have never been higher. One
more death is no longer a lesson; it's a failure to act when we know
what needs to be done.

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Leslie McBain is the founder of Moms Stop the Harm, a network of parents 
who have lost children to drug harms, and provides guidance to the BC 
Centre on Substance Use as their family engagement lead.
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MAP posted-by: Matt