VIDEO: The nightmare of opioid addiction as told by Kelowna mom who lost both sons - InfoNews

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VIDEO: The nightmare of opioid addiction as told by Kelowna mom who lost both sons

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March 29, 2017 - 9:00 PM


KELOWNA – “I’m referred to as a mother with 'lived experience' and I can assure you it’s not one you’d want to share.”

That’s how Helen Jennens begins the story of how she lost both her sons to overdoses within five years.

Her first son Rian was prescribed Ritalin at age 13, and two years later was drinking and taking drugs to self-medicate, according to Jennens.

"The next 13 years of our lives were riddled with trauma, drug misuse and mental health issues," she says.

After a few short years of sobriety, Rian was hit by a truck and severely injured. He developed an addiction to opiates and died in 2011. 

“Rian died alone in bed of respiratory failure due to a combined drug overdose,” she says. “I found him the following day.”

Four years later Helen Jennens lost her other son Tyler.

Tyler, a Kelowna father, became addicted to painkillers after a football injury and when his oxycontin prescription ran out, he turned to heroin. He died in January 2015 when the heroin he bought turned out to be pure Fentanyl.

“In my opinion, mental health issues and drug use are dance partners,” she says in the 10 minute speech posted to YouTube by the KGH Foundation. “Who leads depends on the day and the circumstances.”

Jennens is just one of hundreds of families mourning the loss of a son, daughter, mother or father due to a illicit drug overdose. The B.C. Coroners Service says of the 102 people who died of overdose in the province in February, 15 were from the Interior Health Authority region.

Nine of the fatal overdoses happened in Kelowna.

Jennens video, titled Not Alone, was shared by renowned author Dr. Gabor Mate and has since received more than 300 shares.

Get caught up on the overdose issue here.

Find past stories on fentanyl here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw or call 250-718-0428 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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