Tuesday, 1 January 2013

A Silent Epidemic Destroying our Families and Island Way of Life

There are many families suffering from addiction here on PEI but you won’t hear from most of them. Instead, they suffer in silence, living in the shadows hoping that you don't ask about their families, that you don't notice what's going on, that you won't think less of them if the secret gets out, that you won’t think their children are bad, that you won’t think they were bad parents, and so on.

The fact is, there is a prescription drug epidemic in North America that reached the sandy shores of the Island about 10 years ago, but the majority of Islanders don’t know about it, yet they are being affected by it in their everyday lives.  How?  Well, most Islanders now lock their doors when they never had to before; we think twice about letting our teenagers work at convenience stores where they may have to work alone; we’ve had our homes broken into; we have to worry about drugs in our schools; we see needles strewn around public areas; and the list goes on. We never saw or worried about those things years ago.

In the 80’s when I was a teenager, I had ONE person approach me about buying drugs. That’s it. Just one. Today, Island children face this on a daily basis at their schools and other public areas. That is scary! Parents can only do so much to protect their children.

Prescriptions for Oxycontin pain killers increased by 850% in ten years, and that is just Oxycontin. There are other types of pain killers too and their prescriptions have increased as well. This over-prescribing by doctors has caused an abundance of prescription drugs to be available for sale on the streets and roads of our beautiful Island. According to a CBC story, one young lady said that she could count 56 places to buy drugs between Summerside and Tignish. Imagine what that number is Island-wide! I've been told by some that only 10% of these prescriptions are written by Island doctors while others say this number is much higher. Either way, we have a major problem.

In the past couple of years, we’ve seen a significant increase in thefts from retail outlets, break and enters, home invasions, and armed robberies where syringes are one of the weapons used. The culprits were seeking money to buy drugs or pay off drug debts. One robber with a syringe was a 17-year-old female high school student. If this doesn’t show that there is a problem, I do not know what does!

I've been raising awareness through one-on-one conversations and through some public speaking but I needed a way to reach more people so I thought I would try blogging.   Through this blog, I can share real-life stories, facts on drug addiction, media reports and more in order to educate Islanders so that we can work to stop this epidemic from spreading.

My family has also been affected by addiction. It wasn't supposed to happen to us according to what popular belief says - good parents raise good children, right? Although good parenting gives your children a solid foundation in which to enter the real world, it is not a guarantee that they will not experiment with drugs. My husband and I don't drink, smoke, or do drugs of any kind. We were good role models in every way. Yet, addiction came into our home. To understand why this happened, I made researching addiction my life's work. I gained a better understanding of the many factors that can lead to addiction (even with a positive upbringing). I am happy to have a place to share some of what I've learned.

For those who are suffering, I hope you find some comfort in knowing that you are not alone in this. For those who have not been directly affected by addiction, I hope that you come here with an open mind and open heart so that you can be part of the solution. Being judgemental will not solve this problem. Action based on having the real facts will. To solve a problem such as this epidemic, we have to deal in reality.

God bless you, and thank you for taking the time to educate yourself.

Yours sincerely,
Rose Barbour


  1. Thanks for sharing your story. Our family has also been affected by addiction and we don't know what to do.

    1. Please check out the "Support for Addicts and Family Members" section. You will find some helpful resources there. Addiction is a family disease affecting both the addict and loved ones. You are not alone.

    2. What to do:
      > Talk about it > do Not keep it secret
      > Go to Alanon where there are others who are dealing with loved ones who are addicted to one substance or another
      > Check out Narcotics Anonymous > Many groups have open meetings where you can take your 'addict' AND yourself ..
      > Remember > Addiction is a Family Illness<
      > Call Authorities > If the addict threatens You or themselves
      Take care of Your own self.

  2. Nice start to your blog Rose, keep up the good work.

  3. you are very right,,the pills are on pei and are a lot more different kinds then most people know...i myself got cought in the deep dark circle of using these pills,,at first it was to use because they made me feel good with lots of energy,,then later i had to use because if i didnt i got deadly sick and couldnt even get out of bed or leave the house,,when i wanted to stop i couldnt,,so i went and got help,,i am now on the methadone program,,and can live my life somewhat normal,,its still not completly sober because i take 1 drink of methadone a day,,but its much better then before,,i had to go off island to get started on the methadone program and get help,,there was a 6 month wait here on pei so i could never stay clean long enough to want to keep trying to get in the program,,there is more pils here on the island then anyone can ever imagine,,and its all ages involved,,,i am a 38 year old male,,ive been on methadone now for 3 years,,before the methadone i was hooked on pills for 4 to 5 years,,to get help to the younger people,there needs to be more help here now then ever before,,when someone wants help here theres always a long wait at mount herbert,the addiction center,its always full,,they need more treatment centers and help people when they need help..not 6 months down the road,,i sure hope this problem is resolved soon cause all the younger generation is in serious danger from these pills from hell,,good luck with what your trying to do,,and i sure hope people open there eyes and see whats happenning in front of them,, i am a concerned addict on pei,,thanks for reaching out,,,bye,,

    1. Thank you for your comment. I wish you well in your recovery. It is my hope that one day our addictions services will expand to meet the increasing demand.

    2. It is My hope that one day Dr.'s will Again honour the Hypocratic Oath (To do no harm)
      And that our Gov't LISTEN and STOP the insanity!
      Oxy's and many pills that are so freely prescribed were designed for people who were Terminally Ill (DYING) .. not sprains or bruises.. IMO Dr's should be ashamed.

      Our Govt has been purchased by big pharmacy .. therein lies the problem.

    3. Doctors are not to be blamed, The problem is the medical system.
      Yes, it is true that the terminally ill have access to these prescription pills but are the exact ones that are selling these extra drugs to the network of dealers.
      Many terminally ill cannot afford many of the prescriptions that they need and in turn finance there NEEDED medication this way.
      PEI is the 2nd most economically deprived part of Canada added the fact when a patient is dying from say Cancer for years and cannot work the financial strain on the families..A sad reality of our medicare system.

    4. Sorry I have to say you are not totally correct...DOCTORS ARE part of the problem. My husband brought our 15 year old son to ER two weeks ago with a sinus infection (he can't see our family Doctor until Feb 26th for...he is a "Salaried Physician")...the doctor on call gave him nasal spray, anti-biotics and 20 OXYCOCET !!!!!!! FOR A SINUS INFECTION...definitely something wrong with that.

    5. What ever happened to Tylenol 3 for such things as wisdom teeth being taken out. Instead they get Oxys or Percocets. I am shocked that your son was given Oxy for a sinus infection. Something needs to be done. These pills are not coming from some far off land. They are coming from our doctors prescription pads and it needs to stop. We have to find a way to ensure that people in real pain can get relief while keeping these pills out of the hands of those who don't need them. We need to provide treatment for those who are already addicted as well. We need to do something!

  4. Rose: Thank you so much for your blog. Whether we admit it or not, every family has or is dealing with addiction issues. It is so very painful for family members and everyone involved. We really have to reach out for help and not be ashamed. Hopefully help is out there???

    1. Thank you, Sheila. I have met many families from up west, down east, and everywhere in between who are dealing with this. They come from all walks of life. Addiction does not discriminate. The stigma associated with addiction, and the unfair blaming of parents for a problem that goes much, much deeper than the home, has to end. Only a parent who has gone through it can understand the pain of having a child who is dying of something that no one understands or cares about. Everyone hates the addict. We have lots of work to do with educating people but it has to start somewhere hence the reason for the blog!

  5. The main problem believe it or not is some business people on pei who even though they make good money are always lookin for fast easy money. I have been through this personally myself and it wasnt my parents fault they did their best. Its an escape for alot of people feels good at the time but you do realise what you are doin its just really hard to stop.

  6. Not many familys who havent been affected by this, hopefully this will help to make people more aware . Would be nice if people didnt think they have to be ashamed of it so they could be open enough to talk about it and get the help and advice they need..good luck with what you are trying to do Rose!! wasent sure how to comment so will put my name on this post..Susan Bell

  7. I left the Island many years ago and I'm really saddened to hear of so many young people cutting down their lives with drugs. Addiction is a terrible disease,it was the alcohol that got to my family and I lost a brother to it. Keep the communication lines open and hopefully people will listen, not just hear you. You might want to have a HELP page on FaceBook. It seems to be the communication of choice for the youth. Good Luck and Prayers to you.

  8. I always said when I was a child that I would never do drugs, I would never be one of those people. Its not that easy in Prince Edward Island though. I started using hard drugs when I was 13 years old and it continued for years. It is a vicious cycle that is so hard to get out of. This blog is a great thing. People need to understand that not all addicts come from bad homes, or are bad people. There is help out there, you just have to work hard to find it. Addicts are not bad people, they make bad choices!

  9. Great to see conversation on this extremely important topic, let's keep the lines of communication open

  10. Darlene Gallant-Dugay3 January 2013 at 08:42


    Rose Barbour you are an angel. Thank you for having the courage to reach out to us Islanders. So many people are suffering here. We are a small community with huge devastating issues...and not enough resources. This affects us all !!

    We live in the shadows of this horrendous situation because we don't know "HOW" to make a difference. It takes one person to start the ball rolling; WE CAN ALL HELP!! Lets stop pointing fingers and make it our MISSION to make our ISLAND safer, healthier and happier for the people living here, our children and our grandchildren. Lets CREATE a strong FOUNDATION for our people. Although, I realize this is on the grandness of scales, I have no doubt in my mind, we can make a difference.

    This is a new year....and a new life!!!! NOTHING is impossible!!

  11. It is very sad to loose family members to addictions,and you are right chances of someone in your family or extended family or friends etc.knowing or living with addiction is very very high here on P.E.I.You watch them slowly killing themselves and you dont know what to do,alot are adults and brush it of or lie to you and everyone else,they to know the stigma that goes with being an addict.Some work in circles of friends going from one to another ,some buy of the internet and God only knows what they are taking ! Some care more about the fix then their familys and their children,they are in a terrible place.I wish instead of working so hard to find drugs they would work so hard to kick the habit and give support to one another that way.

  12. I have. Been an addicted most of my life I never came from a bad home that's for shure my pill addiction was one of the most noticeable in my community and yes I did have kids and was it the way I wanted to be no I was in treatment 9 times before getten on methodone 5 years ago if it wasn't for that I don't no where I would be today in my community addition wasn't a big thing no one really new what pill addition was its important for people to no it comes from any family anywhere Iam 28 years old and it all started when I was 21 Iam a female most people think its only male it's all walks of people I came from a small town of alberton pei where it is vary common no

  13. our issue, which thankfully has been resolved, was tylenol 1, an over the counter pain med, that has caffeine and codeine, the codeine is so unbelievably addictive, you have to continue taking the tylenol or you are in unbearable pain... again, education... Luckily, advil is the only pain killer used in this house, and there wasn't complete liver failure or overdose, or advancement to more hardcore drugs... when we think of drugs, we don't think of prescription as a "bad" one... most often we think if it can be sold over the counter it must be safe to use... codeine, is just as bad as heroin for addiction, and bodily affects... but almost worse as the uneducated, don't think there is a possible risk of dependency or bodily harm.

  14. To fully understand the drug problem with prescription drugs on P.E.I., you need to take a deeper look at the root of it.
    From the time I was young, I had basically believed that if you lived on P.E.I. you would never get anywhere in life and had no
    chance of being successful. From the time I was 12 it was socially acceptable to smoke pot and experiment with other drugs.
    To be popular you had to skip school do drugs and fight. Things haven't changed much since then. People think that P.E.I. is
    a lovely place but when you dig your feet into the other side of coin it isn't what it seems. Doing drugs like Ritalin and Dexedrin
    are what you start off with, every second kid in school is diagnosed with ADD or ADHD and of course don't want to take the
    medication because it makes them a zombie. Other kids take advantage of that, and buy the "scripts" off them. It isn't just the problem
    of skipping school and getting high, it's where kids go when they do it. It's the influence of adults who are already caught up in
    addiction invite these teens into their homes seeing them as potential for more drugs. They convince the kids to start stealing
    harder drugs from their parents and paying them pennies for it compared to the actual cost. Eventually these adults introduce the
    kids to the drugs getting them hooked and now the kids will help support their habit because they have no wheres else to go to
    get high "safely". More drugs used to be readily available and it wasn't so acceptable to do Dilladids and Oxys. Extacy, coke, crack,
    meth and MDMA were easily available and most kids selling it. Now them drugs are harder to come by so people take what they
    can get. The economy is a big problem on P.E.I., when you grow up believing you can't get anywhere, kids quit school,
    regardless of background. Start "car shopping", kicking peoples doors in, anything they can do to get drugs and get high with their friends.
    This may not have went the same for kids with well off parents obviously. I have personally went into clinics with people
    who had doctors who would write them out a prescription for anything and they would get paid off. I'm surprised people
    don't know this. Sure maybe half of the prescriptions come from across, but our own doctors cash in on this problem.
    It's pretty sick. Everything spirals from there, the things people do as kids when involved in this lifestyle changes them.
    Turns them cold. Starting out with drugs partying and if they have an addictive personality they are screwed. Luckily I never.
    Drugs arn't just a problem on P.E.I., it's a lifestyle. Most kids first drugs they try are pot, percosets, ritalin or dexadrin. The pills
    work less making people need a stronger form. Then the easiest and most successful way to get high on them is banging them,
    if you're "brave" enough, which I never was. It goes deeper but from my experence that's the prescription drug side of it.
    Needless to say it's an open market, easy to get at, easy to get into, with lots of influence. Like I said drugs arn't just a problem,
    it's a culture on P.E.I.. Hope I helped with a bit of insight. :-)

    1. that's how it started for me,especially going to stonepark school it was so easy to just skip out on classes.it only got worse from there.i used to do be hooked on pills needles and all,but the other problem is actually getting help because addiction services never takes anyone right away and unit 9 just dopes you up.i left pei years ago couldn't of been a better choice.it wasnt until i left that i could actually seek out proper help.

  15. I have had many of family and friends who have fallen victim to this sickness. I never could understand how children growing up in the last decade could ever even consider trying drugs of any kind with all the education they get in the schools today about Say No to drugs. BUT...It still happens, and it breaks my heart.Between peerpressure, the need to escape reality, or because of medical reasons people get caught in this vicious cycle. I have so much fear about my teenagers trying drugs because with all that is out there today it only takes once! I believe there should be a detox in each county of PEI for addicts so they dont have to wait on a list to get in because the beds are all full. I think its a shame that people are wanting to get in to detox but have to wait sometimes for weeks to get in. Our island should take less time sinking money into re-doing the front of liquor stores over (which has happened here in Alberton just before Christmas),over paying SOME goverment officials,or how about the $330.000 the goverment spent for the parking lot for trucks when the Confederation Bridge is closed due to winds, and it is hardley ever used. I say its about time they got their priorities straight.I think it's time for our goverment to help provide more resources for this epidemic....just MY opinion:)

  16. It is a auful addiction so many people have but it does not make them bad people ,They have no self esteam in themself to get the help they need ...some are just not strong enought in themself also ..I pray for all who suffer with that auful addition to try with all you power to get that help ,it's out there for you all ,before you die from it ~~god bless you all ~~

  17. Thank you Rose Barbour for caring enough to help with addiction on p.e.i. I'am sure there are lots of people in recovery willing to help like they used to do when there was an addiction center in summerside . Gerald O'Meara Alberton

  18. This blog is a good idea Rose and hopefully you will get a good following and we will see action. As the mother of an addict who once said she would like to be a part of "doctor's without borders" I wonder at how anything could be so powerful over that wonderful spirit to make it steal from the elderly, family and friends just to get that rush one more time. I never knew addiction from an up close and personal perspective until my daughter became ill and it is truly a devastation of a life that was meant to be and a family. As a mom I could always fix everything, imagine my shock and dismay when I realized how powerless I was in the face of an opiate addiction. My girl has been through one round of the one size fits all program that qualifies for treatment on PEI and I anticipate that round two is imminent.
    There needs to be an action plan involving justice, health, education and industry. From my experience with the system I see gaps that can be filled and may help: 1) Schools need to educate parents as well as children about the prevalence and addictive qualities of hard drugs and their effects on the developing brain. This needs to start in Junior High if not sooner. 2) If a problem is noted, ie a previously high performer goes sideways, the school needs to involve addictions and families to intervene as early as possible. I noted the change in my daughter and attempted to get involved with the school and was told due to privacy I couldn't be involved. 3) We need residential, tailored programming and treatment for those with addictions. I understand the premise behind all addictions are the same, however the psychological draw of some drugs and the damage already done to the developing brain due to the chemical qualities of the drugs need to be considered when treatment plans are established. 8 weeks with weekends off isn't going to work.
    I am hopeful that the mental health and addictions survey will help to highlight where the system gaps exist and we will see improvement but I believe that this blog that throws a light into the shadow of addiction is a good start. congratulations Rose, you are an agent of change.

  19. The words written and expressed on this page,are like words from a book and any family, who has gone through this, could be the author.
    Some families, will be lucky, and manage to by-pass this terrible addiction, but, sadly, in today's society, the odds are against us.
    Would you wish this on anyone, absolutely,positively not.Would you want to see this erased from society? Yes. Is that possible? Doubtful.Can we change this? Yes. Starting today,try a little more empathy ane understanding, ask youself what can I do to make a change? Then take action. Start with you, add some community awareness and ask to have some services that would better these youth and their families. Don't be fooled... we have services, they are just not adequate enough... ask a family who has been to hell and back. Thankyou and keep up the wonderful work..words spoken by a experienced family member.

  20. it's a sad story when children grow up feeling this lifestyle is an acceptable choice. I left the island eight years ago, I had been living in Charlottetown, where it became increasingly difficult to be friends with people who weren't part of that "scene". Due to the overuse of prescriptions I have lost more than three people I love (not all by death, but some just became lost in that world). Perhaps if the government gave islanders a break on bridge fees they would not have to lose themselves during a six month wait, rather they could seek help elsewhere before spiraling into addictions and criminal activity to satisfy their hunger.

  21. I applaud your efforts, Rose. There's nothing like the love of a mother to prompt one into action. As you know, I too have had a stepson in New England who has faced heroin addiction. Withe the appropriate help and resources, primarily the incredible care and counselling he received at Phoenix House in the US over an eighteen month in-residence program, he is now a highly functioning contributor to society and a joy to our family. There is hope and individuals like you are part of that 'hope' process. Good on you. Rosie

  22. I'm a 50 yr. female and when I was in my 20's the drug that was taking the souls of my friends on PEI was cocaine. Homes were lost, jobs lost, your only friends left were the ones you could use for more coke. Having a conversation with someone was pointless, as they were forever distracted thinking about the next line and where it was coming from and what they could steal or sell to get it.

    It could have easily been me. It's not like I didn't try it, or wasn't around it. Today's addictions just seem so much worse. I know they're not. Islanders have to stop being so tolerant. As an island we are no longer unique or special ANYMORE. The WWWeb has seen to that. We have never been untouched by all horror in the world, but somehow we choose to totally ignore it and pretend that PEI is excempt...alcoholics step aside and make way for the new addicts...ya weren't taking the help anyway, "Oh, here's your car keys"


  23. Thank you so much- your words and those who commented, have made me feel less afraid, and more hopeful for a wonderful son's recovery in the near future. I will be following you closely

  24. You have chosen great words for this, our family has also been suffering with the issue of drugs, we lost one son to what they say as an accidentaly overdose, we have another son with whom we are having the issues with addictions but thank heavens right now he is where he is and safe and hopefully he will take the help that has been giving to him and get back on the right track as he has once said easy money ,he grew up in a good family also and we wont tolerate drugs and we are not drinkers, but for some reason they still seem to get involved with the wrong type of people.I USE TO THINK WHAT AND WHERE DID WE GO WRONG but getting the counselling that i needed i realized it was not our fault, they reach an age where they make their own choices and for whatever reason this ended up,i dont hide what we are going through although at one time i did, i have no problem on calling the police if i need to, but we need to get more parents to come forward and not hide what is going on, we need to somehow to get this govt to get off their sorry asses and stop taking away these workers, programs that these kids need and to start giving us the help that needs to be there.WE NEED TO STOP THESE DRUGS BEFORE ANY MORE FAMILIES GET AFFECTED THE WAY WE AND OTHERS HAVE.

  25. Thank you everyone for your words of encouragement, sharing your stories and thoughts, and most of all, for keeping the conversation going. Please be sure to check back often, explore other areas of the blog, and leave your comments when inspired to do so. The wheels of change have been set in motion so let's keep them going.

  26. My fam has dealt with drug addiction a few years ago and we disgusted with how things were handled on pei. Islanders and island doctors need to realize thesis an illness not just an issue that a fam deals with in their own. We were lucky to have a fam member that never stopped fighting it and was able to get our son help out of province at a youth centre in NB called Portage an amazing place. Now some years later we are dealing with an addiction issue again with another son and are being turned away once again at every spot. This is crazy that things have not changed. It saddens me that our system has not changed one bit over that many years that my son is telling doctors that if ur doesn't get help he is just gonna use again or kill himself and a doctor says there is nothing he can do and walks away. Ya thanks for not caring. Thanks for listening.

  27. I really think that the courts should be forcing our kids into the programs at portage or strenth program, i feel that the youth centre is not enough of what they need, ive been dealing with this for quite some time and the answer always is cant force them to these programs, we have to stand up there and try to get these laws changed,legislation opens up in the spring again and they need to hear this, we have to make a change but we need someone to start this and the rest of us follow you Rose , you sound like the right person to begin, ive been wanting to but im not good at this on my own. We need our govt to get this in action before we lose anyone else,if you do decide i will for one be there with you.


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