British Columbia

Provincial government must do more to ensure safe drug supply, says dad of overdose victim

John Hedican, whose son Ryan died of fentanyl poisoning, says the provincial government has to do more to eliminate the toxic drug supply.

John Hedican says his son Ryan, 26, died because of a toxic drug supply

The Hedican family before son Ryan, second from right, died of fentanyl poisoning. From left to right: Jennifer Hedican, Kyle Hedican, Megan Hedican, Ryan Hedican, John Hedican. (Submitted by John Hedican)

A B.C. man whose son died of fentanyl poisoning is calling on the provincial government to do more to ensure a safe drug supply. 

John Hedican's son, Ryan, died on a Vancouver job site in 2017.

The 26-year-old was a loving older brother to two siblings and had just finished eight months of recovery at a facility in New Westminster before going back to work as a third-year electrician. 

"He loved his family and was looking forward to getting his life back [but] part of the disease of addiction is relapse," Hedican told host Gloria Macarenko on CBC's On The Coast

"Ryan relapsed and he died on his job site during his lunch break."

Hedican says it was a toxic drug supply — illegal drugs that may be contaminated with drugs like fentanyl or carfentanil —  that killed his son. 

"I've often said I wish he was an alcoholic because he would have had an opportunity to get whatever he needed that day from a clean source and he would have had an opportunity to try again."

Listen to the interview with John Hedican here:

August 28, 2019 John Hedican is frustrated. His son Ryan died of fentanyl poisoning back in 2017. John would like politics to be put aside and see a safe supply of drugs available to help people. 9:21

Toxic drug supply a key issue

The toxic drug supply is a key issue in addressing the overdose crisis, according to Dr. Keith Ahamad, an addictions doctor and clinical researcher with the B.C. Centre on Substance Use. 

"For someone who is a front-line worker and a clinician in this crisis ... the hot plate issue ... is really one of a current drug supply that is toxic and poisonous and [that we] really [need] to intervene on the supply side to regulate the drug market," Ahamad said. 

In a report outlining the next steps for the region's overdose crisis response, Vancouver Coastal Health's chief medical health officer Dr. Patricia Daly also recommended regulating the drug supply.

Judy Darcy is B.C.'s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

Judy Darcy, B.C.'s minister of mental health and addictions, agrees that the toxic drug supply is a major issue, but said the decision on whether drugs are criminalized or decriminalized rests with the federal government.

"We're working within those parameters and we're pushing the envelope frankly and we have been from the minute our government was elected," Darcy said. 

"We have improved access to medication-assisted treatment, meaning alternative prescriptions to the toxic drug supply on the street, which is what's poisoning people. So we have a significantly greater number of people who are now able to access safe prescription medications instead of the toxic drug supply on the street."

Listen to the interview with Minister Judy Darcy here:

August 27, 2019 An Oklahoma judge has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million for its role in the state's opioid crisis.The court found marketing of the company's high-strength opioid products was misleading.BC launched a similar lawsuit against 40 pharma companies last year. Judy Darcy is BC's Minister of Mental Health and Addictions 11:21

For Hedican, this isn't enough.

"To say it's just a federal jurisdiction ...  it made me angry because our provincial government represents me and I don't have a voice in Ottawa," he said. 

"Our Liberal government [MLAs], and our Green Party government [MLAs] can also join forces with the NDP and yell as loud as they can that we need a change in policy to stop people from dying ... our provincial governments across our country have to make our federal government defend this action."

With files from On The Coast

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