Every week a New Zealander dies of an overdose. Sadly, many of these deaths are entirely preventable, but the stigma surrounding injecting drug use has so far prevented us from taking action. The blog post below was written by a parent whose child died of an overdose. It is a reminder that people who inject drugs are human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
Overdoses affect many people and their families each year.
Ours was rocked on a sunny, glorious day when we found our son. We were expecting to join him to listen to music in the park that afternoon.
Instead we found him alone at his home, unconscious where he had overdosed unintentionally on opiates.
He had been a recreational user for a few years and was deeply private about this activity. He would mostly inject his drugs, for physical pain relief from an old injury.
He was doing this for a number of years before we cottoned on. One day we’d come across some syringes and this was when it came out that he was injecting.
As his parents, we had talked to him about reaching out for formal support but he had reflected on the stigma that would attach even if he was able to get onto an illicit drug substitution program.
We recall him talking about the waiting lists at that time for methadone programs.
He also didn’t see his situation as warranting formal intervention, but did on our advice talk to a support worker from the needle exchange about safe injecting.
When we found him that day we called an ambulance. We know that even this simple act is fraught for people who worry they may get into trouble later for their drug use.
We are not sure if our son had any awareness that he was in trouble when he injected himself that last time.
We now know that there is a call for naloxone to become more available as a medication to reverse the effects of opiates and particularly important to combat an overdose.
Our son had always enjoyed life and liked a few beers with his friends. He’d been out with them the night before we found him. He was in good form.
He was also working full time at a skilled job. He was in his thirties and responsible.
His death affected a lot of people and even a few years later we notice fresh flowers are put on his grave by some at the time of his anniversary.
His loss to us is profound and we think of him all the time.
The Drug Foundation would like to thank the writer (who wishes to remain anonymous) for these words.
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