Grieving family members of prescription drug addicts are demanding better access to government-funded treatment programs in the Annapolis Valley.

'It's like a lottery to keep living' —Amy Graves

More than 100 people showed up at a public meeting in Berwick on Wednesday night.

Linda Dorey's son Harlan battled an addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs for 14 years. In February, he faced a two-month wait to enter an addiction treatment program.

"He cried and he said, 'I can't fight anymore.' And I said, 'You have to fight, you have to hold onto hope. That's all we have,'" said Dorey.

Dorey said her son couldn't wait. He killed himself.

Kentville police say they're aware of nine prescription drug-related deaths in the area since January 2010, but there could be more.

Amy Graves lost her brother Josh one month ago. He took a lethal combination of Dilaudid and alcohol at a party.

"It's cheaper to buy pills than it is to buy a pack of smokes," Graves told the crowd.

"This means there's a large supply on these streets. This means there's an issue how these drugs are being prescribed. This means we need to stop being ignorant about this pandemic sweeping our valley."

Graves said there should be free in-patient treatment for addicts in the region, beginning right away.

"They have six beds. And that's to treat everyone from Windsor to Yarmouth," she said. "Then our sick loved ones are tossed back onto the street. They only offer a 21-day program six times a year. It's like a lottery to keep living."

Earlier Wednesday, Health Minister Maureen MacDonald said the senior health official in the region would look at the recent deaths to determine if there are any patterns.

She called it a "complicated issue" that can't be addressed quickly.

A task force looking into the prescription drug problem is expected to report back with recommendations by June.