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Kamloops mother wants to see social stigma around drug use fade after son dies of overdose

Sherry Robinson underneath Overlanders Bridge where her son, Tyler, lived while struggling with addiction.
Image Credit: Contributed/Sherry Robinson
August 26, 2016 - 6:30 PM

KAMLOOPS - The mother of a son lost to an overdose in Kamloops says a shift in attitudes towards drug addiction will save lives.

Sherry Robinson says a major barrier to seeking help is the stigma around drug addiction. In January, her son Tyler Robinson, 23, died of an overdose after using heroin laced with fentanyl in a Kamloops hotel room. He had struggled with his addiction for eight years, she says, slipping through the cracks of a piecemeal system.

Robinson is sharing her perspective and challenging the public to reconsider widespread opinions on people addicted to drugs. During the upcoming International Overdose Awareness Day she’ll be joining others at a tent hosted by the Phoenix Centre at the Aug. 31 Farmers' Market in downtown Kamloops to share her story and thoughts.

“The big reason I’m sharing this story is because there’s such a negative, really insensitve reaction,” she says. “The more shame we place on those who have chronic addictions the less those that are hiding their addiction will seek help.”

Creating a fear of social exclusion for those addicted to drugs isolates them and traps them in, she says.

“They need respect; they need the support; they need the connection in order to feel stable enough and safe enough to recover,” she says.

While Robinson isn’t calling for specific action from the provincial government right now, she says a lack of leadership and broken promises haven’t helped the situation. Pushing drug abstinence and a lack of substance abuse beds in the medical system are among the problems she points to with the provincial response.

She also points to the Review of Youth Substance Use Services in B.C. report from the province's youth and children representative, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, which calls on the provincial government to create a new plan for dealing with youth substance use issues. In the report Lafond says the youth services for substance us are “piecemeal.”

Robinson says she watched Tyler fall through the cracks of the system as a youth and young adult.

“We need more treatment methods available,” Robinson says. “We need to keep these people alive.”

The International Overdose Awareness tent will be at the Kamloops Farmers' Market from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nurses will be on site to show people how to administer naloxone the overdose reversing drug. It’s a fairly simple process with dramatic, life saving results, Robinson says, and some opiate users carry a naloxone kit with them in case of emergencies. A tribute will also be on display to honour the people who've died of overdoses.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brendan Kergin or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
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