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'There is life after drugs': A message for teens addicted to fentanyl

A Smiths Falls woman has decided to speak out about her addiction to fentanyl in the hope that teenagers learn from her example and avoid taking the drug. And she wants people with addictions to know they can too can beat them and move on.

Katie Smith almost died during 7-year odyssey with fentanyl, has now been clean for 3 months

Katie Smith is now recovering after being addicted to fentanyl for seven years, and she wants addicts to know that they can get better, too. (Steve Fischer)

Katie Smith was first introduced to opioids at age 15 by a much older boyfriend.

It wasn't long before she had graduated to the strongest form of the drug she could find — fentanyl — becoming instantly hooked on the high. It gave her energy, she says, but made her feel calm, comfortable and confident.

But the best part came when she drifted into unconsciousness, what she and others refer to as "the nod."

By her late teens, Katie Smith had lost weight because of her addiction. (Katie Smith)

"When you are going to sleep and you are sitting there and you're kind of like, nodding off, you go out for a second and you come back. That was one of the most enjoyable parts of it all," Smith says from her mother's home in Smiths Falls.

But those nods could prove deadly. Smith remembers injecting herself with what she thought was the usual amount of fentanyl, but was in fact a lethal dose.

Fortunately a friend noticed she had stopped breathing and quickly administered naloxone, a medication used to block the effects of opioids.

Several hours later "the same thing happened again, because the buzz I felt before I went into the overdose was so powerful ... it was like, 'Oh, lets do that again,'" Smith recalls.

Once again, the dose was higher than expected and she needed to be revived by a friend.

Pleasure dissipates

Before long, Smith says she no longer experienced any pleasure from taking the drug.

Instead, fentanyl injections became a daily necessity, the only way she felt she could keep the symptoms of withdrawal at bay.

It's excruciating pain. You are vomiting, you are sweating. I wouldn't even get high anymore.- Katie Smith


"Its excruciating pain. You are vomiting, you are sweating. I wouldn't even get high anymore. I would just do it to get better, to feel normal," she says.

Smith also lost weight, suffered from seizures, loss of memory and even extensive tooth decay — all, she says, the result of taking fentanyl. 

A Smiths Falls woman has decided to speak out about her addiction to fentanyl in the hope that teenagers learn from her example and avoid taking the drug. 1:13

Road to recovery

By last year, Smith was stealing money from her mother and shoplifting from stores in Smiths Falls to support her now seven-year-old habit.

She was arrested by police and the court ordered her to either take part in a new pilot project for young people addicted to drugs, or go to jail.

As part of the program she spends her weekdays in counseling sessions with eight other people also struggling with addiction, and she also has to submit to weekly drug tests.
At 13 years old, Smith loved to play soccer. (Katie Smith)

Smith is now 22 years old and has been clean for three months.

"The first couple of weeks were hell; the sickness and the withdrawals. But now I am past that ... I am realizing that I am happy without drugs, and I never thought that was possible. I mean, my anxiety is going down, my depression is better, I have friends, I do normal things," she says.

And Smith has some advice for the Kanata teens who have recently spoken out about their own fentanyl addictions.

"There is life after drugs," she says.

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