Winnipeg offers no help for opiate addiction, say grieving parents

The parents of Adam Watson, 27, are speaking out about the lack of help for opiate addicts in Winnipeg after their son's death.

27-year-old Adam Watson died on Feb. 6 after battle with fentanyl addiction

RAW: Winnipeg parents talk about their son's addiction to opiates

7 years ago
Duration 3:39
Christine Dobbs and Lang Watson are speaking out about the lack of help for opiate addiction after their son's death.

A Winnipeg family is speaking out about the lack of help for opiate addiction after their son's death.

Adam Watson, 27, died on Feb. 6 after a long struggle with an addiction to fentanyl and other opiates. (Supplied by Christine Dobbs)

On Feb. 6 Adam Watson, 27, died from his addiction to opiates. His mother, Christine Dobbs, said they are still waiting for lab results but they believe Adam was high on fentanyl when he died.

Adam is one of four people, all friends, who have died from opiate addiction in the past two years, she said.

Fentanyl has been linked to numerous overdoses across Canada. In January, the Manitoba government created a task force to raise awareness of illicit fentanyl use.

The drug is estimated to be 80 times more potent than morphine and hundreds of times more potent than heroin, according to the the Centres for Disease Control.

Adam and three of his friends have died from an opiate addiction in the past two years, his parents say. (Supplied)

Adam's parents are at a loss about how their son went from "smoking weed on the riverbank" to using injection drugs.

One morning at the breakfast table their son opened up, Dobbs said.

"He started to cry at the table and he said 'I need to tell you something,'" she said. Adam told them he was addicted to opiates.

Adam's father, Lang Watson, said his son spent the next six years in a cycle of trying to get off opiates and relapsing.

The first time Adam tried to quit, he went to the Health Sciences Centre but was told it would be two weeks before he could get treatment. In the meantime, to prevent violent withdrawal symptoms, medical professionals told Adam to continue taking street drugs, Watson said.

Over the next several years according to his parents, Adam would try to quit as many as eight times. His parents said he went into detox at the Main Street Project once, went to emergency four times, and tried methadone several times. But Adam's parents said he never got the treatment he needed.

"In Winnipeg, there is no appropriate help in my view. What's required to detox from opiate addiction is medical supervision. You need medical detox," said Watson.

Christine Dobbs and Lang Watson say their son tried to get help with his fentanyl addiction but the medical treatment he needed was not available in Winnipeg. (CBC)

"When an addict crashes it's an emergency situation and they need emergency medical attention," he added.

When Adam's mother had a heart attack ten years ago, it was emergency medical attention that saved her life, she said.

"When a drug addict who's on opiates … crawl into emergency, say they need help, they need to be taken in," said Dobbs.

"My son sat [in emergency] for five hours, withdrawing from opiates asking for help, and he finally left. That's wrong. We don't treat people like that," Dobbs added, tearfully.

Adam's father said he does not want to assign blame. "I'm not pointing fingers at people. I'm just saying there is not enough [help] available," he said.

Adam's parents said Winnipeg needs to wake up to the fact that fentanyl is pervasive in the community.

"We need to get very concerned about [fentanyl]," said Dobbs.

According to Watson, two of Adam's surviving friends have left the province to seek help for their addictions, and they are very worried about a third, still in Manitoba.

Adam's parents say they hope their son's story inspires Winnipeg to change how it treats opiate addiction.

"He did not want to die," said Dobbs.

The family will always remember Adam "with his biggest smile, his commitment to his job and his dreams," she said.

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