British Columbia

'Turning the Titantic takes a long time' says mother of overdose victim after another deadly year

Leslie McBain is encouraged by new responses to the opioid crisis, especially talk of providing safe drugs to users. Still as 2018 comes to a close there is one overdose death a day in Vancouver and four across the province.

Leslie McBain is encouraged by new responses to the opioid crisis despite 1 death per day in Vancouver

A discarded needle in downtown Vancouver from November 2018. (Chad Pawson/CBC)

As 2018 comes to a close, the rate at which B.C.'s overdose crisis claims lives continues at a saddening rate.

By year's end, the total number of deaths for 2018 is expected to meet or even exceed the 1,458 people who died from an illicit drug overdose death in 2017, according to the latest numbers from the BC Coroners Service.

Grief and loss have become such deeply inherent parts of the problem that in late November, a Ministry of Health-funded agency released two guides to try and help.

Called Coping Kit: Dealing with Addiction in Your Family and Gone Too Soon: Navigating Grief and Loss as a Result of Substance Use, the two online guides were developed by the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use and supported by the government.

"The daily heartache and stress can often be overwhelming for people living with addiction, and their families," said Judy Darcy, B.C.'s minister of mental health and addictions at the time of their release.

Leslie McBain's son, Jordan, died of an overdose in 2014. (CBC)

Leslie McBain, 71, who's son Jordan died in 2014 from an overdose, was one of several people touched by the crisis who helped create the guides.

'Grief may hide...'

A poem by McBain, entitled At First, ends with the line "Grief may hide behind the door for a moment or an hour, but it never walks away."

While the poem comes from a place of honesty, McBain wants others to know that people like her, who have worked tirelessly as advocates, still have hope.

Safe drugs please

"You know turning the Titanic, it takes a long time," she said. "We can see the end game, but getting from here to there is going to be a long and difficult task."

In 2016, McBain along with two other mothers founded Moms Stop the Harm, to create a network for people whose loved ones have died from drug overdoses or who are struggling with substance use.

The organization now has 800 members and its chief aim is to push governments to provide safe drugs to users, so that they can avoid illicit drugs, which often contain deadly amounts of fentanyl.

That could happen in 2019 as Canada's chief public health officer said in December that discussions were taking place with provinces and territories to increase access to a safer supply of opioids.

Locally, a Vancouver task force made up of advocates, said a safer drug supply is one of its main recommendations to the city.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart agreed, saying action on a "poisioned" drug supply cannot be ignored.

This has provided encouragement to McBain, who is also looking for changes to the way doctors deal with addicted patients, and more funding for programs that help remove the stigma associated with drug use.

Jordan Miller became addicted to prescription opioids after hurting his back in a construction accident. (Leslie McBain)

This comes from her experience with her son Jordan, who was prescribed OxyContin for a back injury. Although he went to rehab, he ultimately relapsed.

"I look at it as the system failed him in many ways and we are addressing those ways today, so that gives me hope," she said


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