Reprinted from "Opioids" issue of Visions Journal, 2018, 13 (3), p. 4
Late last fall, while working on this issue, my six-year-old daughter injured herself and we ended up at BC Children’s ER. The doctor told us they were going to give her fentanyl for the pain. My chest tightened and I thought, ‘My God, no. Not fentanyl!’ Despite knowing that fentanyl is a good medicine when used appropriately, I had fallen into the trap, the trap of thinking in terms of ‘demon drugs.’ I momentarily forgot that how and why a drug is used—the context—must be the focus.
Coordinating this issue has been one of the most moving experiences I’ve ever had with Visions—and I’ve worked on well over 50 issues. Maybe it’s partly because I interviewed a few people for it (something I don’t normally do) to help some contributors share their voices. While I was listening, I remember thinking, ‘People need to hear this.’ There are lines that still echo for me, blowing apart preconceptions: Al Fowler’s telling me that he had stopped using opioids on his own but went back on to get housing. Or Farren clarifying that she didn’t lose her kids because she started using again; she used again because she lost her kids. Or John asking us why our society is so uncomfortable with discomfort and pain.
If you feel a bit removed from the opioid crisis, this Visions will turn what you think about cause and effect on its head (spoiler alert: there are no single causes or single effects). In fact, the reason this issue is a little bit longer is because we really wanted to ensure readers could see how people got from A to B (or Q!). And since some narratives get more play in the media, we wanted to showcase a real diversity of stories from different genders, ages, regions, incomes and backgrounds, each with a unique pathway and outcome, many tragic, most hopeful.
Let’s keep up the dialogue. Maybe the dialogue needs to extend to similar causes. For example, consider how much the opioid/overdose crisis has in common with another tragedy in our communities: suicide. In both cases we have preventable deaths, stigma, silence, misconceptions, complex causes, trauma, loss, escape from pain… And public outcry not nearly loud enough.
If you never read Visions cover to cover, this is the time to start. If nothing else, to honour the thousands of lives cut short and hundreds of thousands of lives directly hurt by those losses, we need to listen and seek to understand.
About the author
Sarah is Visions Editor and Director of Mental Health Promotion at the Canadian Mental Health Association’s BC Division