Teen believed he was in control of his drug use, half-sister tells inquest

Oak Bay teen Elliot Eurchuk, who died from a drug overdose, believed he had control of his street-drug use and could prevent dependancy and withdrawal, half-sister Sydney Eurchuk told a coroner’s inquest Tuesday.

“He did communicate to me, so he thought, that he had mastered a system where he was able to take the right amount and not take it often enough to experience active addiction and manage withdrawal,” said Eurchuk “He definitely thought he was in control.”

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Mother Rachel Staples and father Brock Eurchuk found Elliot, 16, unresponsive in his bed on the morning of April 20, 2018. He was later found to have died from a drug overdose; a high concentration of fentanyl mixed with heroin and methamphetamine was found in his body, along with heroin.

Sydney Eurchuk, 29, whose father is Brock Eurchuk, testified she was part of a blended family when Elliot was younger. She later kept in loose contact with him, but “reconnected” after she heard Elliot had overdosed on drugs while in hospital for a blood infection.

She told the inquest her half-brother said “my drug of choice is opioids” and got some of his drugs on the dark web or made his own. He told her he never sold drugs at school and never to other people. Her half brother explained he was more of a middle man on one or two occasions, connecting larger-quantity sellers with smaller sellers, she said. “He never sold drugs to people directly.”

Eurchuk said she concluded through their conversations that Elliot had hardened to his lot in life but was not suicidal and had plans for the future including to live with a friend — who the inquest heard last week was dependant on opioids — buy a camper van to travel across Canada, and attend medical school.

“I think he considered himself as a martyr,” she said. “To his friends and his friend community he expressed a lot of care but he didn’t have an attitude of self care or an ability to receive love.”

Eurchuk told the inquest, over a speaker phone, that she tried to be a healthy, loving, trustworthy adult friend “because I inferred that he didn’t have that figure in his life at that time.”

Elliot’s parents also have two younger sons.

The inquest has heard about family conflict because of Rachel Staples’ problems with a business partner, treatment for breast cancer, a house move, and disagreement between Staples and Brock Eurchuk over how to deal with their son’s use of illicit drugs.

Sydney Eurchuk said she offered to have Elliot stay with her, but he declined because he didn’t want to leave his friends. Eurchuk, studying to be registered nurse, said she wasn’t sure of the depth of Elliot’s addiction.

“He was telling me he was doing it to the point where he wouldn’t succumb to addiction,” she said. “So … I don’t know if I thought he was addicted at any point. I thought he had a problem, that it was something that needed to be addressed, but I don’t know that I knew it was a full-blown dependency.”

She agreed with a lawyer’s statement that it was fair to say Elliot didn’t think he needed to address anything.

Other witnesses testified about what is and isn’t available in Victoria hospitals and in the community for drug-addicted youth, what services have wait lists, and Island Health’s plans for improvements.

On Tuesday, presiding coroner Michael Egilson and a five-person jury were in the seventh day of hearing testimony. The jurors will be asked to make recommendations to prevent similar deaths.

The inquest continues Wednesday.

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