Man Struggles with Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription drug use on the streets is becoming an increasingly serious problem. One man tells his story about prescription drug addiction.

Dan was only 17 when he took a fall that was to drop him further than he could have expected. His fall off a building led him to hospital and an eventual addiction to oxycodone, a high-strength pain reliever that has become – more increasingly – a drug available on the streets. Dan’s doctor prescribed him the medication for three years and then cut him off.

However, Dan’s experience with the drug didn’t end there – he went to different hospitals in Oxford County, Ontario to get increasingly growing supplies of the drug. He also started buying the drug off the street.

“I lost my job because oxys became my No. 1 priority,” he told a group of about 50 people gathered at the Oxford administration building on May 18. “I realized I was a junkie.” Eventually, Dan – now 27 – sought help and turned to methadone treatment to fight his addiction.

Dan and several other speakers gathered at the administration building for one of three sessions being held in Oxford though the Oxford County Drug Task Force to help highlight the problem of misuse of prescription drugs in the community.

Indeed, such drugs are a problem across Canada and elsewhere. Edward Odumodu, a local pharmacist who took part in the May 18 session, said narcotics use per capita in Canada is only outpaced by the United States and Belgium. As for Dan’s story, Odumodu said it illustrates how a legal drug use situation can spiral out of control. At the session, prescription opioid misuse was described as having reached a “crisis” level.

Drugs Worth Plenty: Police

Daryl Longworth, deputy chief with the Woodstock Police Service (which operates in Oxford), has a history of drug enforcement and organized crime policing in Ontario. In Woodstock, oxys began to emerge in the early 2000s. However, by 2017, prescription drug misuse began to reach the same level as those of some illegal drugs such as cocaine. These days, a single 80-milligram oxy tablet can draw $40 to $50 on the street. Longworth remarked that if police took 100 people off the street for oxy sales, 100 more would soon replace them because of the sheer profitability of the drug. Police are heavily involved in educating the public about the situation. Also, the police are telling local doctors about the drugs they sometimes prescribe. “Some of them weren’t aware” of the magnitude of the problem, Longworth told the session.

Police have a tough time with targeting traffickers who are selling oxys because they’re dealing in a legal product. “We have to catch them right in the act,” Longworth said. Those problems are something Const. Steven McEwen, community service officer of the Woodstock Police, knows all too well. “Oxys are the main one,” McEwen, who sits on the task force, said at the session of the prescription drugs that are available on the streets.

Fifty Strong Task Force

Jason Smith, chair of the task force, told the session that the group includes 50 community agencies, a number which has been attained since the organization was incepted. One of the group’s aims is to give out information about the misuse of prescription drugs. “It has a huge effect on our community,” Smith said.

No one knows that better than Dan. Asked by one of the session spectators what role the family can play in helping a relative held in the clutches of prescription drug addiction, he said: “You have to have faith in them and stand with them.”