‘It can happen to anyone’s child’
Teen travels across country to share her addiction story
Recovering addict Leila Attar says she was scared sober after a fentanyl overdose nearly killed her in 2016.
The 19-year-old Ottawa teen unwittingly took pills thinking they were percocets last November.
“I had taken too much in the past, but I’d never been so far gone. I had the feeling I was so close to death,” Attar said.
Five weeks ago, Attar — with her Canada 150 Youth Pass on Via Rail — started a cross-country tour to learn more about the opioid crisis by visiting treatment centres and inner-city drug sites.
“I want to share my struggles and learn about the diversity of others battling the crisis. I have struggles with mental health and addiction, but so do people all around me,” she said. “I wanted to get some insight into why this was happening.”
During her travels, Attar met a couple whose 19-year-old daughter — a university student — had overdosed and a father in law enforcement who had lost his teenage son to opioid addiction.
“It’s not just marginalized kids, it can happen to anyone’s child. It’s not just a junkie issue. It’s all over,” she said.
Attar added the way to reach kids is by changing the educational system.
“The fear-based system doesn’t work. Parents have to have conversations with their kids and let them know they aren’t going to get in trouble. It’s not going to work for every kid but it will work for some,” Attar said.
Attar said her drug use started with marijuana when she was 15. Suffering from bullying and depression, she had left home at 16 and graduated to other party drugs.
At the time of her overdose, she had no intension of taking pills that were laced with fentanyl which she got from her regular dealer.
“You think they are your friend, but they are just selling to you because they want your money and that is all your life is worth. It almost killed me,” said Attar, adding a hugely important step is to get more naloxone — a fentanyl antidote — on the streets.
I want to share my struggles and learn about the diversity of others battling the crisis. I have struggles with mental health and addiction, but so do people all around me. I wanted to get some insight into why this was happening.” Leila Attar
Leila Attar – posing at the VIA Rail station in Ottawa earlier this summer — is travelling across the country to talk about her own addiction and near-fatal overdose, and listen to the stories and struggles of others.