British Columbia

'The stigma is the worst part': Mother remembers son lost to opioid addiction

Surrey mom Andra Dunn will be talking about her son Jermaine Tuesday night at a panel discussion about opioid addiction at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary School.

Andra Dunn is speaking out about opioid addiction after losing her son to an overdose in 2014

Andra Dunn with her son, Jermaine. Jermaine died of an opioid overdose in 2014. (Supplied by Andra Dunn)

Surrey mother Andra Dunn says the pain of losing her son Jermaine to addiction in 2014 shattered her world and her close family. 

"He used to always ask me, "Mom am I a bad person?" and I'd say, "No, you're not a bad person. You're a good person with a really bad problem," she said.

Jermaine, who has a twin brother, started using drugs in his early 20s.

"He was playing music in a band, living a real social life. We all thought — including himself — he was just partying at the time," Dunn said. "And then, as a couple of years went on, it became apparent that he was taking way more drugs than just social purposes."

Dunn's family staged an intervention and Jermaine went to rehab.

"But the truth is once you're an addict, the drugs have you by the soul. It's a long, hard battle."

After five months of sobriety, Jermaine suffered an emotional crisis and ended up resorting to drugs and overdosing.

"We didn't see that coming, even though we knew that he had a drug addiction. It wasn't a daily use for him. He didn't lose jobs. He didn't steal. He didn't end up on the streets. He was working. He went to college. He got his business diploma."

Dunn said she hopes by sharing Jermaine's story she can help other parents and families struggling with addiction.

The number of drug overdose deaths linked to the opioid, fentanyl, has been a growing crisis in British Columbia. In mid-December, the B.C. Coroners Service recorded 755 drug overdose deaths for the year, a 70.4 per cent increase from the previous year.

She said anyone is at risk and urges people to seek help.

"The stigma is the worst part," she said. "Even now telling his story, people will look at me and say, 'Oh, you lost a son to drugs because they don't understand yet' ... The pain is there every day."

Andra Dunn is presenting Jermaine's story Tuesday night at an opioid panel discussion at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary School — Jermaine's old school. The event is from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. PT.

With files from The Early Edition

To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled A mother talks about losing her son to opioid addiction