As a teenager in foster care in northern Ontario, Mandy Richard began snorting Percocets and OxyContin before turning to almost anything she could get her hands on, including hydromorphone and Tylenol 3.
The relief the highs brought her were more potent than the fear of an overdose.
“Then you’re looking for your next fix, and you’re aching for it and you’re anxious for it. You need it,” she said.
Richard left her addiction in Ontario to start a new life in Fredericton when she realized her education was at stake.
“I was a role model. I was student council president,” she told CBC.
She is currently finishing her last year at St. Thomas University — a world away from her home reserve in northern Ontario.
A report released this week by the federal government says opioids are killing an average of eight Canadians every day, and the scourge, as forewarned, is now moving east into Atlantic Canada.
Yet despite what’s been learned in B.C., where the province declared a public health emergency almost a year and a half ago, New Brunswick is finding itself unprepared for what is landing on its doorstep. It is, for example, one of the few provinces that still doesn’t offer free naloxone kits — the potentially lifesaving opioid overdose antidote — in pharmacies.
The province’s chief medical officer of health admits things could get worse before they get better.
In the Maritimes, the number of publicly funded prescriptions for opioids increased by 26 per cent between 2010 and 2015, according to data compiled by the Canadian Institute for Health Information. The figures show the increase in New Brunswick was 28 per cent over that period.
But New Brunswick doesn’t have the same prescription monitoring program that Nova Scotia has and some front-line workers worry that once prescription pills aren’t readily available, illicit fentanyl will gain a bigger foothold.
Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s acting chief medical officer of health, told CBC the province’s response plan will be made public in the coming weeks and the province is planning a summit on the issue in November.
“I think it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. I think ramping up all of the things that we need to do to deal…