Calgary Herald

Province’s fentanyl plan criticized before release


A Calgary mom says she relies on Facebook to confirm her son is still alive. Phone calls are often few and far between. He recently phoned from a British Columbia jail but the call was cut off less than two minutes after she answered.

The son, now 22, has been using dangerous drugs such as fentanyl and heroin for at least four years. He’s been in and out of treatment, but he’s still chasing the high, his mother says.

“You could bankrupt yourself trying to get someone help that doesn’t seem to want the help at the time,” says the mom, who declined to have her name published.

As the province prepares to roll out a three-year plan to open new treatment spaces for users addicted to fentanyl and other opioids, the mother says the strategy must include mental-health counsellin­g and support.

She says the past few years have been hell trying to get treatment for her youngest of three children. She believes the addiction has consumed his mind and body, the cravings convincing him to relapse after his attempts to get clean.

“He’s overdosed twice that I’m aware of, and ended up in the hospital,” the mother says. “It’s amazing he’s still alive. It really is.”

While in Calgary, the son stole food from stores and sold it in exchange for drugs. He panhandled. He also “robbed us blind,” his mother says. He moved out in 2013 and later lived on the street.

Last year, his mom spent five figures putting him through a private treatment program. She had initially tried to find him a spot at a Calgary detox facility, dubbed Renfrew Recovery Centre, but it was routinely full, unable to take him.

The private program was in the central Alberta town of Sundre, where he was treated with suboxone, an opioid replacemen­t drug similar to methadone, and received counsellin­g. But he discharged himself after a couple of weeks. He later returned to the program, though he never finished.

“There’s a reason he’s doing this, but none of us know why,” his mother says. “The doctors feel he suffers from PTSD from what he’s seen on the street. He’s witnessed a number of his friends overdose and die. It’s just a terrible life for a young man, 22 years old; what he has gone through and seen is just craziness.”

She says there is a need for better help for those who suffer from addictions.

“This is a mental-health issue,” she says. “You can’t treat one without the other.”

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