Mother questions availability of narcotics after daughter's overdose

Sandy Bourque is still haunted by the day when two men in suits got out of an unmarked police car to break the news that her 24-year-old daughter had died.

Amanda Bourque, 24, died of an accidental overdose after taking Dilaudid to deal with a headache in 2014

Amanda Bourque died two years ago from an accidental overdose. She took Dilaudid after experiencing a headache, but the painkiller interacted with one of her other medications. (Submitted by Sandy Bourque)

Sandy Bourque is still haunted by the day when two men in suits got out of an unmarked police car to break the news that her 24-year-old daughter had died.

Bourque said it was a beautiful June morning in 2014 when the police drove into her yard in Waasis and broke the terrible news.

"Right from the start I couldn't accept the fact that my daughter was gone. It was such a negative thing that I had to do something that was positive," she said.

Her daughter, Amanda, and her friends had been partying that day and had done some cocaine.

They were hanging out and suntanning, but later, when Amanda had a headache and wanted an Aspirin, she was given Dilaudid instead by someone who was with her.

The painkiller, however, proved deadly because of a medical condition that Amanda had.

"My daughter suffered from hypothyroidism and with this disease a doctor would never prescribe her Dilaudid at all because it's a disease interaction," she said.

Amanda Bourque, 24, died of an accidental overdose after taking Dilaudid two years ago. Sandy Bourque, right, is now asking doctors to be more careful in how they explain the potential side effects that come with painkillers. (Submitted by Sandy Bourque)

Her death was ruled an accidental overdose in a toxicology report.

Now Bourque is pleading with doctors to be more careful in how they explain the potential side effects that come with painkillers, such as Dilaudid, so patients are more aware of the risks of taking and sharing these drugs.

Bourque said she hopes her message about caution when taking Dilaudid can save someone else.

"It's something that I'm compelled to do because I think education is going to be the key to save our children from this epidemic," she said.

"I had never even heard of these things until I lost my daughter."

New drug monitoring system

Ed Schollenberg, registrar of the New Brunswick College of Physicians and Surgeons, said he hopes a prescription monitoring program will reduce the number of patients using narcotics. (CBC)

The organization that registers doctors in the province has been working on a prescription drug monitoring system for a decade.

The new program is expected to be in place next year.

Dr. Ed Schollenberg, the registrar at New Brunswick's College of Physicians and Surgeons, said he hopes the new prescription monitoring program will curb the continuing problem of narcotics addiction.

"It's possible we will save the next generation of patients from going down the road some of the current ones have found themselves on," he previously told CBC.

Schollenberg said the monitoring system will collect data on the prescribing of all drugs, but particularly looking at ones subject to abuse.

Schollenberg says the number of prescriptions for narcotics has risen steadily for the past 25 years to treat acute pain from injuries, and to treat chronic pain.

Schollenberg hopes the early prescribing of narcotics will be reduced immediately with the new monitoring program, with doctors taking more time to warn patients of the risks and to suggest alternatives such as methadone.

In the long-term he hopes fewer prescriptions will be written, and an environment where alternatives are possible, available and acceptable.