Pubdate: Tue, 31 Oct 2017
Source: Expositor, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Brantford Expositor
Author: Vincent Ball
Page: A5


A Brantford man who has battled drug addiction for more than 40 years
hopes the city follows through with safe injection sites as part of
its strategy to combat substance abuse.

But Randy Roberts, 53, said there is also a need for the treatment of
trauma as part of a program to treat substance abuse.

"I want people to remember that we're all hurting," he

"There has been a lot of work done on this and for most addicts the
root cause of their addiction is childhood trauma -- physical,
psychological, sexual abuse."

Addicted since he was 12, Roberts continues to use cocaine and
opiates. He traces his addiction to his now-deceased mother. There
were beatings throughout his childhood.

And when Roberts, who grew up in Toronto, was 12 his father died. He
spent time living on the streets of Toronto and using a pop-up tent
for shelter.

"I used to get visits from heroin addicts. They'd use my tent but they
always brought me food and took care of me.

"They were the family I never had."

Many female drug addicts have been raped, he said.

"A lot of people don't realize this but there are some people who are
addicted to opiates because they were in a car accident or were hurt
and were prescribed them to help deal with the physical pain," Roberts
said. "Others are addicted because of childhood trauma - that's
different and why I think there is a need for trauma treatment."

For example, Roberts goes to Hamilton for cognitive processing
therapy, a treatment that helps people deal with post-traumatic stress

Roberts had three years of sobriety before going back to using

Before returning to Brantford at the suggestion of a friend, Roberts
also lived in British Columbia.

City council has approved a drug strategy that was put together by a
group that includes representatives of the Brant County Health Unit,
St. Leonard's Community Services, Brantford police and city officials.

As part of its work, the group interviewed local drug users, who said
using controlled substances is a way of coping with difficult
situations, such as abuse and loss.

Although the community drug strategy may not explicitly state a need
for trauma treatment, it is widely recognized that many addicts have
suffered trauma, said Brad Stark, executive director of St. Leonard's.

He noted that there are agencies in the community that address
childhood trauma and children's mental health. As well, addiction
treatment programs seek to address the root causes of an addiction as
an important part of recovery, added Stark

The city's drug strategy recommends supervised injection sites in the
city, expansion of the needle exchange program, as well as making
needle containers more available for safe disposal of used syringes.

"I'd like to see needle containers in Victoria Park, in fast-food
restaurant washrooms and down by the Grand River behind the casino and
civic centre," Roberts said. "The whole idea is harm reduction for the
users and no one wants to see a kid get hurt."

Safe injection sites, if done properly, can do a lot to help the
city's drug problem, Roberts noted.

"They (safe injection sites) make it safer for everyone because they
can provide treatment as well."

There is another benefit, Roberts said.

"Safe injection sites don't provide the drugs - users bring their
own," he said. "But there is a way of testing the drug before the user
takes it and that's huge because there are stories out there about
dealers mixing cocaine with fentanyl." Those people who use cocaine
put their lives on the line every time they use because they don't
always know for sure what they're getting, he added.

Meanwhile, Roberts said a lot of people in the community likely got a
major wake-up call when a Canadian Institute for Health Information
report put Brantford at the top of the Ontario list of cities for
emergency room visits due to opioid poisoning.

"People use in their cars, in their homes, in the washrooms of fast
food restaurants and in public places," Roberts said. "Strange as it
may sound, I really don't know a lot of the street users.

"Most of the people who are users are professionals, people you'd
least likely think about when it comes to drug abuse."

The city 's drug strategy includes more than 40 recommendations,
including increased youth addictions counselling, increased public
education and awareness and increased access to long-term

Under the plans, St. Leonard's will hire a drug strategy co-ordinator
to work with the health unit, the city and other agencies to find ways
of implementing the recommendations.
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