'Privileged' opioid addict won't seek help for fear of losing job

A Downtown Eastside outreach worker says she's afraid to seek help for her own opioid addiction because she believes it could jeopardize her job and future.

Actor, yoga enthusiast says her addiction is like 'committing suicide but really slowly'

A Downtown Eastside front-line worker says she's afraid to seek help for her own opioid addiction because she believes it could jeopardize her job and future. 

"It's just this vicious cycle," Jane — CBC has agreed to withhold her real name — told Stephen Quinn onThe Early Edition.

"I feel so alone. I feel so alienated and just helpless."

Jane, who's in her 30s and loves yoga and acting, has been on and off drugs — from cocaine to methamphetamine to oxycodone — for years. 

Just a year ago, she says she was still "going to yoga four or five times a week. I was still drinking my green juice and eating salads ... [N]ow, I'm not leaving my house for days on end." 

She's become enslaved by an opioid addiction, spending $60 to $100 on pills a day, on credit cards she knows she can't pay off. 

B.C.'s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Perry Kendall called a public health emergency in April, because of the rising rates of overdose deaths. (CBC)

She buys oxycodone from a dealer, but she suspects her pills are sometimes laced with fentanyl, a drug found in more than half of fatal drug overdoses in B.C. during the first four months of 2016, triggering an official public health emergency

"I think I was sold fentanyl the other day, and I got definitely more high," she recalls.

"I'm pretty sure it wasn't just oxys that I was using, which did scare me a bit."

Afraid of being labelled a 'drug seeker'

Jane says she doesn't want to seek medical help for her addiction because she believes that information will become part of her medical record. 

"It will follow me around for the rest of my life. I'll be a drug seeker," she said. 

She says she fears the label could threaten her career, since she works with addicts and handling drugs is part of her job. 

"I'd just get fired," she said. "I'd be deemed unable to handle narcotics. I wouldn't be able to do my job." 

I'm not going through any dumpsters yet. I'm still shopping at Whole Foods. I know it's all within me to change. But for some reason I can't connect to that part of myself.- "Jane", opioid addict

However, Doctors of B.C. says a physician would  never share a patients information with an employer unless the patient provides consent. 

"if a physician obtains information from a patient in the context of a patient-physician relationship, the information between them is confidential," said the organization in an emailed statement.

"Physicians may make notes in the patient's medical record that other physicians in their practice setting can reasonably access (e.g. walk-in clinic)."

Jane says she's been through treatment before and was able to work through some of the emotional issues behind her drug use. 

"But I just couldn't keep it up," she said.  

"I'm self-medicating because I have a lot of pain ... the drugs aren't even necessarily the problem. That's just one tool I have to kind of numb myself from it." 

Now, she feels stuck. She figures she might have to declare bankruptcy to deal with her credit card debt. 

Two men hold up a sign at a June 8, 2016 rally in Vancouver calling for more supervised injection services to deal with a growing crisis of opioid-related overdose deaths. (Denis Dossmann/CBC)

And lately, Jane's been thinking about injecting drugs to save money. 

"That's insane to me," she admitted. "But my use, the costs would go from $70 down to $20 a day." 

She realizes things could get worse before they get better. 

"I'm not going through any dumpsters yet. I'm still shopping at Whole Foods," she said.  

"I know I'm very privileged. I know it's all within me to change. But for some reason I can't connect to that part of myself.