Drug abuse treatment stigma must end, say moms of addicts

Two moms are hoping to change the stigma around treatments for those dealing with drug addiction by sharing their stories at a panel discussion in Stratford.

'One person saved, that's all I need,' says mom who lost her daughter to drug addiction

Two moms are hoping to change the stigma around treatments for those dealing with drug addiction by sharing their stories at a panel discussion in Stratford.

Rose Barbour, one of the organizers behind the panel, helped her own son kick drugs. She says attitudes have to change.

Barbour said she was shocked at how some people outside the healthcare system reacted while her son was being treated for an opioid addiction. 

"'Don't let your son go on methadone, that's just trading one drug for another,'" is what she heard, says Barbour.

Rose Barbour said treatment programs are working despite the stigma often attached to harm reduction.

She says the Island has taken many positive steps including supporting a needle exchange program and using drug treatments such as methadone and Suboxone. Addicts, she says, are discouraged by those who say using one drug to help kick another is the wrong way to go. 

"It's hard to feel good about your recovery when your being pressured to come off the very medication that is saving your life … That's the very thing that saved his life, he's now two years in recovery, a college graduate and doing wonderful," said Barbour.

The public presentation being held Thursday night in Stratford is being billed as a chance to talk about the ways addicts are medically treated, and why physicians make the choices they do — something called harm reduction.

"If I had a different approach, or a different way of thinking about substance abuse I could have made all the difference in the world," said Donna May, a Toronto resident who lost her daughter to drug addiction about three years ago and also one of the panellists.

Donna May works to change perceptions around treatment for addictions.

May used tough love in a failed attempt to get her daughter off dope, but it wasn't until Jacquilynne was lying in a hospital bed in Vancouver dying of flesh-eating disease that her mom had some realizations.

"This is a disease. This is not something people choose to do. At one point or another it is not recreational anymore. It becomes something that they can't control."

Over their last two months together Jacquilynne asked her mother to go out and save the lives of other addicts by letting the public know harm reduction is key to success. Her trip to P.E.I. and work on behalf of group she started called called mumsDU, or Moms United and Mandated to Saving the lives of Drug Users is part of honouring that last request.

"One person saved, that's all I need … just one person." 

The panel discussion is being held at the Reach Centre in Stratford. 


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