British Columbia

Student overdose deaths prompt Victoria High parent meeting

How should parents talk to teens about drug use?

'It's happening in all high schools. It's happening everywhere.'

The Victoria High School PAC organized a Jan. 26 information meeting on overdoses for parents in response to student deaths. (Google Street View)

Victoria High's Parent Advisory Council has organized an information night next Thursday for parents on drug use and overdoses following the deaths of two students.

The latest was a 17-year-old girl from Victoria High School who died of an apparent drug overdose last month.

"It was quite shocking for their community to lose two bright, engaged students," said youth outreach worker Lorna Mace, one of the scheduled speakers for the meeting.

However, Mace said, Vic High is far from the only school touched by the opioid epidemic.

"It's happening in all high schools. It's happening everywhere," she said.

Victoria High's parent advisory council has organized an information session about how to talk to their kids about drugs, following the apparent overdose deaths of two students. (Facebook)

"The parents would like more information around what exactly is happening in our community in regards to the fentanyl and opioid crisis," she said. "How they can talk to their youth about what is happening and how they can seek out treatment and information if necessary."

Mace and Victoria Police Const. Chris Gilbert, a school liaison officer who is also speaking at the Jan. 26 event, agreed that a shortage of resources is a major obstacle. 

Lost opportunities for treatment

 "You might want to kick the habit today," Gilbert told On the Island host Gregor Craigie. "So you'll muddle through today or for another week or two. But if there's no bed, by then, you've changed your mind. We've lost that opportunity."

Mace said there is too little support available in every aspect of the response to the crisis, from prevention and early intervention to harm reduction and treatment options.

Earlier this month, RCMP seized near an elementary school in Langford more than $26,000 and more than 600 pills, which are being tested for fentanyl. (West Shore RCMP)

Teenagers are generally knowledgeable about substance use but don't fully realize the risk of the powerful opioids that can be present in nearly any illicit drug, Mace said.

"I think it's hard to really understand the fact that just using one substance, one time, can actually be fatal and pretty quickly."

She said young people are also attracted to drug use to reduce emotional, as well as physical pain.

For parents, she advises talking with teenaged children about drug use "from the most loving and non-judgmental place."

Hidden drug use

The most important words, she said, are: 'I'm not going to punish you, I'm going to support you.'"

Mace, who works at the Victoria Youth Clinic, said young people can hide their drug use from parents if they want to.

"We get parents who walk into the clinic with their kids and say 'I just found out this morning, my daughter just admitted to me that she's injecting heroin every two hours.'"

The meeting is 7 p.m., Jan. 26, in the Victoria High auditorium at 1260 Grant St.

With files from Rachel Sanders

To hear the interview with social worker Lorna Mace and Victoria Police Constable Chris Gilbert on CBC Radio One's On The Island go to the audio labelled 'Student overdoses prompt Victoria High parents meeting'.