A warning from Cottonland
As the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end – and end they did in Glace Bay.
First Sydney Steel Plant shut down, then came the coal mines and the fisheries all but died soon thereafter. The once proud people largely became a very depressed town – both economically and emotionally - and an unfortunate side effect of people in desperate situation was that a drug problem began to fester. One drug in particular was at the root of the epidemic; OxyContin.
OxyContin is the brand name for oxycodone hydrochloride, a class 2 narcotic that is a time released painkiller. The drug is one of the most powerful on the prescription drug market and it provides immense pain relieving benefits for up to twelve hours as the medication is slowly released through one’s system. It is also an incredibly addictive drug that tore apart my hometown at its core.
What started out as a carefully monitored medication quickly turned into an overprescribed one for anything from cancer to a sore back. Doctors used it as a treat-all solution and several people got so dependent on the drug that they couldn’t function without it. An underground economy quickly erupted in the town with people selling their prescription stash to addicts for as much as $30 a pill and the highly addictive nature of the drug known as ‘Hillbilly Heroin’ on the streets was being injected and snorted faster than you could say ‘narcotics epidemic’.
At one point, there were so many people in the town addicted and so many deaths due to overdose of the drug that Glace Bay became the subject of a National Film Board of Canada documentary called ‘Cottonland’. A quick perusal of YouTube will show you dozens of news stories and documentaries all warning of the dangers of OxyContin. It’s horrifying how one little pill can do so much damage, and it’s mind blowing to me that the drug hasn’t been taken off the market in favor of a less dangerous alternative.
It makes the fact that the United States’ Food and Drug Administration has given the green light for the drug to be prescribed for children as young as 11 years of age even harder to fathom. You read that correctly – a drug that has crippled communities and ended the lives of people who were hopelessly addicted to it is perfectly okay to administer to kids who haven’t hit puberty yet.
I am in awe.
Kids are diagnosed with so many disorders today and some are overmedicated to the point that they look like extras from television’s ‘The Walking Dead’ – and now we want to give them access to OxyContin too? “Big deal” some might say. “That doesn’t affect us here!” Just because it doesn’t today doesn’t mean that it won’t in the future.
In case you haven’t noticed, here in Canada we take an awful lot of cues from our neighbors to the south and, if anything, they tend to be a little more conservative with their medications down there. Heck, I still know people who hop the border to buy 222s and Tylenol with codeine that are ‘prescription only’ in the U.S. but readily available over the counter in Canada. If the Americans are dishing out the OxyContin to kids, it won’t be long before we start as well.
As parents, it’s our job to keep our kids safe – and one of the things we do as protectors is tell them not to do drugs. At the same time, most of us completely put faith in medical professionals when they issue prescriptions to our kids when they’re sick. I am terrified that there will soon come a day that doctors in New Brunswick will be able to prescribe OxyContin to our pre-teens, and parents who don’t know the difference will simply shrug and blindly administer the recommended dosage to their sons and daughters because of doctor’s orders.
I have seen the damage these pills can do first hand. When they hit my Island home, it was with good intentions. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, sadly, and for every person that was helped by the presence of OxyContin in their life, 10 other lives were ruined. If we start allowing more of these pills to be prescribed to children, you can bet that more of the drugs are going to find their way to the streets and more and more people are going to get irreparably addicted. I moved 300 miles from my hometown and I certainly don’t need its problems following me here.
Here’s hoping I’m wrong.
Labels: Times & Transcript