Fentanyl spiral: How the guilt and shame of addiction stole a B.C. man’s life

published on June 24, 2017 by Chris Brown in CBC News

Widow says her husband’s death reflects what’s missing from drug treatment and prevention in Canada

All it took was a single beer for Murray Shaw’s life to unravel.

The moment came on a bike holiday in January 2016 in San Diego while he was with some friends from the Vancouver area.

After almost 20 years sober, the community college instructor from New Westminster, B.C., cracked open a cold one at the end of a long ride.

Fourteen months later, he died alone in a hotel room in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Fentanyl overdose was the coroner’s conclusion.

‘We know what’s needed but it doesn’t exist’

One of the country’s leading experts on addiction says Wood’s experience is typical of many other families.

“The resources aren’t there,” said Dr. Evan Wood. “The resources go into ambulances chasing people around, police chasing people around €¦ I could go on and on.”

St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, where Dr. Wood practises, dealt with over 5,000 emergency overdoses in 2016 €” a number that is overwhelming the ability of first responders to cope.

“We are hemorrhaging money into the health-care system rather than having a system of care [for addictions] that could improve communities and families,” he told CBC News.

Dr. Wood said there is not enough focus on preventing people with addictions from relapsing and ending up back in the ER.

“To catch people whether they are early on or falling off a cliff. We know what’s needed but it doesn’t exist.”

Sasha Wood says she’s been comforted by the kind words and support from Shaw’s colleagues, but she’s haunted by what she considers missed opportunities to save her husband’s life.

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