Moms want feds to face facts on drugs

Fam­i­lies mail photos of opioid vic­tims to prime min­is­ter

Edmonton Sun - - NEWS - — Meghan Potkins

Cal­gary — Pe­tra schulz kisses a photo of her late son danny be­fore care­fully tuck­ing it inside an en­ve­lope ad­dressed to Prime min­is­ter Justin Trudeau.

schulz, co-founder of ad­vo­cacy group moms stop the Harm, is or­ga­niz­ing a cam­paign to flood the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice with hun­dreds of pho­to­graphs of vic­tims of the opioid cri­sis to mark na­tional ad­dic­tion aware­ness Week.

“We want him to shed a tear for our kids and we think these photos can do it,” said schulz, whose son died in 2014. The 25-year-old ed­mon­ton chef had been seek­ing treat­ment, but re­lapsed and died af­ter tak­ing fen­tanyl.

drug users are of­ten more vul­ner­a­ble to over­dose or poi­son­ing dur­ing a re­lapse, since tol­er­ance can be re­duced dur­ing a pe­riod of treat­ment or re­cov­ery.

schulz said danny died as a di­rect re­sult of not hav­ing ac­cess to harm re­duc­tion mea­sures like nalox­one or a safe sup­ply of med­i­cal-grade opi­oids.

“you get all this in­for­ma­tion, like, ‘tough love, don’t en­able’, but no­body said, ‘your loved one has a high like­li­hood to re­lapse and they could over­dose,’ ” schulz said.

“I would have wanted to know how I could keep him alive. There is no chance for peo­ple once they die. “dead peo­ple don’t re­cover.” schulz was among a group of women who met Tues­day at a na­tional con­fer­ence on sub­stance use and ad­dic­tion in Cal­gary to share sto­ries about their loved ones and to urge ac­tion from fed­eral au­thor­i­ties in the face of a tide of opioid deaths across the coun­try.

The women gath­ered around a ta­ble clut­tered with pho­to­graphs of smil­ing faces: images of sons, daugh­ters and hus­bands taken in hap­pier times, be­fore an ad­dic­tion to opi­oids trag­i­cally twisted the tra­jec­tory of their lives.

The women, from al­berta, b.c. and on­tario, are call­ing on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to de­crim­i­nal­ize the pos­ses­sion of per­sonal amounts of any drug, in­clud­ing hard drugs like heroin.

The ap­proach is sim­i­lar to what has been im­ple­mented in Por­tu­gal, where leg­is­la­tors have re­moved the ap­pli­ca­tion of crim­i­nal law on per­sonal pos­ses­sion for lim­ited amounts of all drugs, while of­fer­ing more so­cial sup­ports.

“With­out de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion, we can’t make it a med­i­cal is­sue and it is a med­i­cal is­sue,” said ros­alind davis, who lost her husband to fen­tanyl af­ter he de­vel­oped a de­pen­dency on opi­oids, which be­gan with a pre­scrip­tion to Per­co­cet for a back in­jury.

“It’s a med­i­cal and so­cial is­sue and we need to be ad­dress­ing it — you can’t do that when you’re crim­i­nal­ized for it.”

The women be­lieve a lot of of­fi­cials at the fed­eral level un­der­stand the is­sues, but are un­will­ing to take the next step.

“They’re on board, yet they can’t go the ex­tra step to de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion be­cause (of) stigma, lack of will, lack of po­lit­i­cal courage, or fear of los­ing their jobs,” said Les­lie mcbain, who lost her son Jor­dan to opi­oids in 2014.

“When we all know that that’s the end re­sult that we need to move ahead to de­crease stigma, to get the fund­ing we need (to ad­dress this cri­sis), it’s very frus­trat­ing to hit that wall all the time.”

Gavin Young/post­media

Ros­alind Davis, from left, Pe­tra Schulz, Les­lie Mcbain and Donna May have all lost loved ones to the opioid cri­sis. On Tues­day they were join­ing hun­dreds of fam­i­lies across Canada send­ing photos of their loved ones with mes­sages to Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, part of an ef­fort to de­crim­i­nal­ize drugs and turn sub­stance abuse from a crim­i­nal is­sue to a health is­sue.

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