Parent's heartbreaking tale of son's addiction just one example of current drug crisis

Finding help for addicts

As I reflect on the countless conversations I've had with parents across British Columbia, one thing has become painfully clear—families are at their breaking point, forced into impossible decisions by a crisis that seems to grow more dire by the day.

Nearly a year ago, I met Stacy (I have changed her name to protect her son’s identity), a mother whose world was turned upside down by her son's struggle with addiction. She came to me not just as a legislator but as a fellow parent, seeking to make sense of a system that seemed indifferent to her despair.

She booked an appointment with me to discuss B.C.’s drug policy. When I walked into the boardroom, she had pictures spread out in front of my chair. I sat down and she started to speak.

“This is my son when he was 11. When he was 12 and 13—the year he first tried marijuana," she said.

“Then 14, 15—the year I was told that the only way to get him treatment for his addictions and help was to turn him over to MCFD (the Ministry of Children and Family Development). He was committed but KGH released him immediately, saying they didn’t have a bed for him.

“Here he is at 16, and here is where he was at 17, when he was kicked out of the group home. This is how I found him when I came to get him.”

Three photos were haunting. I saw a boy becoming a shell of a teenager, completely obliterated by his addiction. But I looked closer. What was that next to him in the photo of him at 17? No, it couldn’t be. But it was— a tent and a sleeping bag.

This mom told me the story of her son’s addiction and showed me the seven prescriptions he has filled every week—for free. Dilaudid, gabapentin and hydromorphone to name three.

She looked at me with disgust and showed me her son today, at 18.

“This, this is what your province’s drug policies have done to my son,” she said. “I don’t know if he will make it to 19.”

My heart broke looking at the last picture she showed me. He was a shell. Hallow. Empty. Without hope.

From his first experimentation to the shocking reality of his life at 18, homeless and battling severe addiction, Stacy's story was a poignant reminder of the stakes we're dealing with.

It's a narrative far too many British Columbian families can relate to, as they watch their loved ones slip away, while effective help remains frustratingly out of reach. The choice some families face, between mortgaging their homes or leaving their children without the care they desperately need, is a decision no one should ever have to make.

It's a stark reflection of a system that has left too many behind, despite the soaring number of overdose deaths—a record high last year—that underscores the escalating scale of this tragedy.

Under the current NDP administration, we've seen policies that have failed to address the root causes of addiction and provide the comprehensive support needed. The decriminalization efforts, for instance, have sparked debate and concern over their impact on public safety and the well-being of those they're meant to help.

It's become increasingly clear a new approach is needed—one that prioritizes recovery and ensures treatment is accessible to everyone, regardless of their financial situation. It’s time to restore hope because better is possible.

BC United launched our mental health and addictions policy over a year ago, a recovery-oriented system of care, one that respects the dignity of every British Columbian and offers real hope for the future. This isn't just about policies or politics, it's about people. It's about rebuilding lives, restoring families, and reclaiming the promise of a community that looks after its own. The heartbreak must end.

Together, we can turn the tide on addiction in British Columbia, but it requires us all to stand united in our resolve to make a difference. Let's make that commitment today, for Stacy, for her son and for every family fighting to find a way out of the darkness.

My question to you is this:

Do you think that a treatment and recovery system is better than what we have today?

I love hearing from you and read every email. Please email me at [email protected] or call the office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the B.C. United MLA for Kelowna-Mission.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and Opposition caucus whip and critic for Environment and Climate Change, Technology and Innovation and Citizens’ Services. She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee on Education as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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