Sheila Jennings, Toronto, ON

I joined Moms Stop the Harm because this organization focuses on harm reduction and the ending of the stigmatization of those who use drugs, and because its founding members perceive, as do I, that the war on drugs is a war against our children. 

I am the mother of three amazing young adults, one of whom is recovering from heroin addiction. He has been hospitalized with overdose (Fentanyl poisoning), more than once.[1] However, the first of those poisoned whom I became aware of in this drug crisis was not my son. It was someone else’s son. Like my son, he was one of the many young people who left Ontario to find work out west. This youth’s body was brought back from Alberta in 2015 by his parents, to be buried in Ontario. His friends were not only sad, they were also anxious.

I have seen first hand the impacts on those who have been poisoned by fentanyl, and who required emergency poisoning reversals. Those who survived this ‘horror show’ did so because of harm reduction practices taught to and responsibly used by them and their families. They were also saved by the acts of an array of enlightened service providers, including people who work at safe injection sites as well as because responsive friends and good Samaritans stepped in to administer naloxone kits and placed timely calls to 911.

Others I know of through my circle of friends and through my children’s circle of friends did not make it. These poisoning deaths are a loss not only to involved families, but also to their communities. A continuing concern of mothers is the failure in some sectors to recognize that the death or the chemical injuring of one person’s child is a loss to us all. The comment of British Columbia activist, professor Vikki Reynolds, that the policy response to a situation of this magnitude “smells like the AIDS crisis” carries weight. It is the stigmatization of those who use drugs that we must confront. We must also address the stigma of the connected conditions of homelessness, and the criminalization of people who use drugs.

I see the street-drug poisoning crisis as being about interactions between the troubled political climate, history of trauma, the neurologically inherited disposition towards addiction and the purveyors of powerfully addictive and lethal drugs. I believe the solution to the present circumstances resides in our closely examining the current politics of support as well as the politics of care. We owe it to this generation to do that.

[1] This disclosure is made at his suggestion and with his permission.

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