KELOWNA - Corey Varga asked his dad to hold onto his rent money so he couldn’t spend it on sleeping pills.
He's been addicted to Zopiclone ever since it was prescribed the drug in 2011 and has taken as many as 30 pills a day mixed with alcohol and Ativan, another prescription drug.
He’s never had to buy any of it on the street.
“They’re super easy to get,” Varga says. “I go into (a walk-in clinic) and I say ‘I’d like some Zopiclone and Ativan please.' They say 'what’s that for' and I say 'it’s for anxiety and sleep.' They give me thirty and I’m be back three days later."
He will visit as many walk-in clinics it takes to support his addiction but rarely has to go to more than three before he has enough drugs to survive the month.
“A week ago a guy pulled up my PharmaNet and he had four pages. He still prescribed me something that I got a week ago because I said they had been stolen. He prescribed me 60 (pills)," Varga says. “No one has ever asked me if I was addicted.”
Now that Varga admits he is addicted, he says options for treatment are limited because of the obscurity of his addiction. He’s been in and out of treatment centres, his parents had to kick him out of their house and he has a criminal record. Three days ago he also lost his job.
When asked about the things he’s done to people close to him over the years, his eyes swell with tears.
“When I was living with my parents I was smashing holes in the walls because I was drunk. I was stealing. When I drink and pop pills, I’m very mean. If I’m hurting then I just want them to hurt as well," he says. “I lost my girlfriend. I have no friends. I feel hopeless and helpless.”
Varga’s story is not particularly unique, but because addiction to sleeping pills and other benzodiazepines is so uncommon, he feels alone in his fight.
“I don’t know anyone else who’s addicted to sleeping pills,” he says.
He's says treatment hasn't helped because the people who run sober living houses just want your money. He's been to three of them.
"There’s no support, there are people using all around you. There are pills everywhere. I was better off in jail.”
He says the drugs followed him, even behind bars.
“You can get Zopiclone (in jail) but they only give you one at night. I cheek them so I can mix them with the booze when I get out. Then I’ll do them all at once and be back in jail a few days later.”
Now Varga is two days into detox and is attempting to break himself out of the vicious cycle he has put himself in.
“I feel a lot of guilt. I feel a lot of shame,” he says. “That makes me want to numb the pain even more. I like woodworking, I like martial arts and I’d like to have lots of friends. I just don’t like myself.”
— This story was updated at 9:10 a.m., Friday, Jan. 27, 2017 to correct the spelling of Zopiclone and Ativan. Thanks to readers Jennifer Robertson and Rachel Hannaberry for pointing out the errors.
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