Fatal fentanyl overdoses pull moms together

A small coalition of Canadian moms, whose children have been afflicted by substance abuse, are speaking out as they work together for better addiction treatment.

Group of mothers calls for greater access to naloxone, an antidote to opioids

Donna D. May, Leslie McBain, Petra Schulz and Jennifer Woodside (left to right) hold photos of their deceased children. (Supplied)

"I looked around, I could not find him. And then I saw a light coming under the bathroom door and I opened the door, and there he was."

Petra Schulz found her son Danny dead last year after he overdosed on fentanyl. The 25-year-old had unknowingly taken the drug thinking it was OxyContin.

Today, Schulz is part of MumsDU, a small coalition of mothers from across Canada whose children have been afflicted by substance abuse and who are advocating for better treatment.

"We are not ashamed of our children, of who they were and what they did."

"They were wonderful children and we feel, in order for others to get the help that they need, it's important for us to speak out," Schulz said.

25-year-old Danny Schulz was found dead last year after he overdosed on fentanyl. (Supplied)

Overcoming grief and guilt

When Jennifer Woodside's son Dylan overdosed on OxyContin laced with fentanyl last year, she said she couldn't bring herself to tell people the truth about what happened.

"I would just say that my son had died, and that it was an accident," said Woodside.

"Losing a child is a horrible experience, but losing a child in this way is devastating, because you blame yourself. 'Why couldn't I save him? Why did he have to do it one more time?'"

​But slowly she came to feel she was "shortchanging Dylan" by allowing what she considered a misplaced sense of shame to silence her.  

"I'm proud of Dylan. He was a good person. He was the boy next door."

"This can happen to anybody, because addiction really doesn't have any boundaries. It doesn't seem to care."

Jennifer Woodside's son Dylan overdosed on fentanyl last April. Woodside is the co-founder of Moms United and Mandated to Save Drug Users, or MumsDU. (Supplied)

Naloxone needed, says grieving mom

Woodside said the recent spike in fentanyl-related deaths in Canada has made MumsDU's mission all the more urgent.

"[Dylan] was the beginning of the wave. Now it's the full force gale here."

She wants naloxone, a kind of antidote that counteracts opioid effects, to be more readily available.

"If Dylan had had naloxone available, we could've given him an injection like an EpiPen. That would've given him 15 or 20 minutes to get to the hospital to get treatment."

"I don't want his death to be in vain."


To hear the full interview with Jennifer Woodside, listen to the audio labelled: Fentanyl-related overdoses draw moms together in advocacy.

with files from the CBC's Idil Mussa

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