Mothers share stories of their children’s opioid addictions

Daughter lost to years of drug addiction

Donna May’s daughter fought drug addiction for many years before she died in 2012.

May, a member of Moms United and Mandated to Saving the lives of Drug Users, or mumsDU, advocates that people addicted to drugs be re-humanized, not de-humanized.

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Learning that her daughter, Jac, was going to die due to complications from substance abuse led May to reconsider her views and actions around addiction.

“We represent all the mothers of Canada,” said the Toronto-area resident. “Drug policy reform should be based on social and health systems, not criminalization.”

Single pill stopped his heart

Just one fentanyl pill can kill.

That’s all it took to stop the heart of Dylan Bassler, 21, whose devastated mother wants to spare other parents what she has gone through since her son, apparently seeking oxycodone, bought a single pill from a Vancouver drug dealer that turned out to be far more powerful.

Jennifer Woodside now advocates for increased awareness of this new killer on the recreational drug scene.

The week before Dylan died was the happiest of Woodside’s life — not that she knew it was the last week of his life. Dylan, a posthumous graduate of Capilano College, was “well on the road to recovery” from drug problems and working with a private psychologist.

The night before he died, Dylan went out with his father to buy school supplies and have dinner in an Indian restaurant. At some point, he bought a pill. The next morning, April 4, 2014, he was still snoring in bed when his father left for work. When Woodside called that morning — she was in the car with her second husband — she learned Dylan had died two hours before.

The condo was filled with police. “They wouldn’t let me see him. I waited four hours for the coroner, all that time, sitting there agonizing. I wanted to cover him up. I just wanted to hold my baby,” Woodside remembered.

“That was the last time I gave Dylan a kiss. He was in a body bag.”

Her son, who was adept at sculpting, cooking and athletics, was gone. Woodside considers dealers who sell fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller, without letting buyers know what they’re in for, to be murderers.

“It’s not going to stop if you don’t talk about it and teach people,” she said in the living room of a Saanich home where mumsDU launched their cross-Canada campaign. “It hasn’t stopped for his friends.”

Son addicted ‘almost instantly’

Leslie McBain’s son Jordan Miller died in Victoria on Feb. 4, 2014, from a combination of drugs in his system. “Because he couldn’t find the drug he actually needed — oxycodone was the drug he was addicted to,” she said.

McBain has complained to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. about her son’s physician, who gave him a prescription for oxycodone for a workplace injury when he was 19. She visited the doctor on her own to plead against the decision, saying Jordan was vulnerable to addiction and she feared an opioid would re-engage his interest in drugs.

He was addicted “almost instantly,” she recalled, and relied on the drug instead of physiotherapy or other treatments to deal with the pain.

Jordan went through detox in Victoria. He came out “clean and dry,” McBain said, “but the next two months were hell.”

Jordan suffered withdrawal symptoms including restless arms and legs, muscle spasms and dreadful nausea.

He relapsed into opioid drug use about three months after detox.

At his death, he had two anti-depressants in his system, along with a form of morphine for impending eye surgery, and pot and cocaine from the previous day.

From the time Jordan was 19, McBain lived “24-7 stress.” There were only three outcomes she envisioned for her only child: He would recover, he would go to jail for some kind of interaction with drug dealing, or he would die. “And the worst thing happened.”

Jordan was popular, handsome and athletic, a risk-taker, she said. Hundreds of kids attended at his funeral on Pender Island.

“If I were going to give advice to parents of kids at risk, I would say, don’t push them away,” McBain said. Don’t practise tough love. Stand by them. Saying just say no does not work. You have to love them, look past their weakness or addiction and support them so they will live.

“I honestly think had Jordan lived longer and matured a little bit, he could have beaten it. Because he wanted to.”

Painkiller’s power proved fatal

The power of the painkiller fentanyl lies in its strength.

That it is stronger by far than morphine is part of the appeal for young people, especially young males, said Petra Schulz, who splits her life between Mayne Island and Edmonton.

Her son, Danny, 25, had been clean for a year before April 30, 2014, when she discovered his body in a bathroom. “We called 911, but it was too late.”

She believes he bought one pill during a six-hour stopover in Vancouver on a trip with her husband. She thinks he dissolved the fentanyl in water and took it the following night, after coming home from work.

“I saw a light shining under the bathroom door.” The youngest of her three sons was inside.

“Losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to a parent. There are many, many parents who suffer in silence. We felt it was important to break the silence.”

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