Calgary Herald printed story: Click link below
The girl was 14 when she started smoking pot, dropped out of volleyball and began skipping school.
As her drug use escalated, she eventually moved on to MDMA, heroin, fentanyl and a whole cocktail of substances, despite all her mother’s efforts to get her help.
Three years later, at 17, she was nearly dead. She had turned blue by the time the ambulance picked her up after an overdose one morning in July, though her mom still doesn’t know exactly what she was using. Was it heroin, maybe laced with fentanyl? Her mother Vanisha wonders.
The girl had track marks all over her arms and across the backs of her knees.
Vanisha appeared before a judge several times to have her daughter placed in court-ordered detox. Eventually, the girl agreed to take another shot at treatment, securing a spot at the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre in southeast Calgary in mid-October.
“These last two weeks, this is the most I have seen her in months,” said Vanisha, whose last name the Herald has chosen not to publish to protect her daughter’s privacy. “And she’s healthy; she’s put some weight back on. She’s sober. I can have a conversation with her. I can hug her. I can tell her I love her. She tells me she loves me, too.”
The Calgary mom is expected to share her experiences at a workshop on the dangers of fentanyl, slated for Thursday night at the recovery centre where her daughter is receiving treatment.
Janine Copeland, clinical director at the recovery centre, said she first started noticing clients abusing fentanyl two and a half years ago. Since then, the problem has only gotten worse, with an escalating death toll and mounting frustrations with long waits for addictions treatment.
Last year, authorities reported 120 deaths linked to the drug, up to 100 times more potent than morphine. This year’s death toll is on track to more than double the 2014 tally, with roughly 300 fatal overdoses expected by Jan. 1.
The recovery centre is treating 25 patients who are in their teens and early 20s, six of whom have abused fentanyl. For two of them, it was their drug of choice.
Fentanyl, which can be lethal even in small doses, can be “very easy” to find for teenagers who are “in the drug lifestyle,” according to Copeland, who learns about Calgary’s drug culture through her young clients.
“People describe walking down the street and if they look sketchy people will approach them while they’re walking down 17th Avenue and say, ‘Hey, do you want greenies or green beans,’” Copeland said, referring to some of fentanyl’s street names.
Like Vanisha’s daughter, young users are combining drugs a lot more than they used to, “trying to get a desired high,” which means they may mix fentanyl with crack or methamphetamine, Copeland said.
And like Vanisha, parents often feel lonely and helpless, desperate to know where to go or what to do.
Now that her daughter’s in treatment, Vanisha feels like she has something to hold onto, a sense of relief that she knows the girl is safe.
“I know she’s in treatment, and I know there are no guarantees, but right now today, I have my daughter. And so I’m grateful for the moment I have right now with her. I know she’s safe, and I know she’s not on the street somewhere.”