Fentanyl abuse isn’t somebody else’s issue

The teen drug problem in Manotick is a public health concern. Pay attention. Your kid is at risk too
By Pam Dillon 

Parents, lock up your medicine cabinets. If you’ve been prescribed pain killers for a chronic condition or following surgery, count them, guard them and dispose of them ASAP at the pharmacy after you’re done treatment.

Why? Odds are, if your youngster is going to experiment with drugs, it might well start with something from a medicine cabinet or a bedside table. It can happen sooner than you think – at age 12 or even younger – and it can potentially lead to devastating consequences.

An event in Manotick last night, November 14, revealed just how unbearably painful those consequences can be. The meeting was about Fentanyl, a prescription medication most of us have never heard of, but one that has caused havoc in the south Ottawa area and anguish for kids, parents and families.

Know this: Fentanyl is deadly. Usually administered as a slow-release patch to treat pain, it is 100 times more potent than morphine. Patches are being cut into quarters and inhaled, chewed or injected by youngsters for a quick, extremely powerful high. Kids have been reduced to breaking and entering to feed their dependence on it and overdoses are frequent because the potency of quarters can’t be measured.

public information session at Manotick’s United Church and folks in the audience included the relatives of Tyler Campbell. Tyler was 17 when he died of a Fentanyl overdose less than three and a half months ago. “My grandson was a good kid,” his grandpa said, voice cracking.

And there was ample evidence in this church hall that Fentanyl doesn’t discriminate. MPP MacLeod told the crowd a community leader and business owner had personally come to her asking that she get it off the streets. “He told me about his teenage son’s addiction to [it].”

In fact, parent after parent after parent talked about his or her child’s dependence on the prescription drug – and the desperation for help. There were tears. There was anger. There was pain so real you could feel it.

“These kids have lost their lives. They’ve lost their friends. They’ve lost their schools,” one of the parents revealed. “I’m a parent too and it’s breaking my heart” to hear these stories, admitted Ottawa Police Staff Sgt. Mike Laviolette, head of the force’s drug unit. Laviolette was one of several experts on a panel MacLeod had assembled to talk about the issue and to listen to parents’ concerns. “The resources aren’t working,” one mom stressed. “There is a crisis in the community and there will be another death in the community.”

Certainly, prescription drug addiction is not restricted to any one part of town, nor is it somebody else’s concern. As Staff Sgt. Kal Ghadban pointed out, “This is a problem everyone can help with.”

Here’s what you can do:

*Get the facts. According to the Partnership for a Drug Free Canada (PDFC)

  • 20 percent of teens have taken a prescription drug to get high. 75 percent said they stole it from home.
  • The mean age of youth first engaging in illicit drugs is 12.6 years old.

*Talk to your kids.
*Watch for warning signs. They many include discarded Fentanyl packaging, burnt tinfoil and straws or a pen shaft without the ink in it.
*Notice your child’s eyes. If he or she is using, the pupils will have contracted to the size of pin points. You may notice slurred speech or him or her nodding off.
*Don’t discount it or think, for a minute, that your kid couldn’t possibly be involved in drugs. “It can happen to anyone, no matter how old you are,” Dr. Melanie Willows pointed out last night. Dr. Willows is clinical director of the substance abuse and concurrent disorders program at the Royal Ottawa Hospital and she also pointed to compelling data on a big, bright overhead screen for all to see: Students are “more likely to take an opioid than a cigarette.”



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