'We are not ashamed of him': Mother honours son who OD'd on fentanyl
Published Tuesday, August 11, 2015 10:21AM EDT
An Alberta mother whose son died after overdosing on the potent painkiller fears that a recent spike in fentanyl-related deaths is only the beginning.
“I’m afraid the numbers will continue to rise,” Petra Schulz told CTV’s Canada AM Tuesday morning. “[It] is very disheartening for parents like us who have lost a child this way.”
Her 25-year-old son, Danny Schulz, died last year in his apartment after overdosing on the painkiller-turned-street drug. His family suspects that, like many others, Danny wasn’t aware that he was ingesting the synthetic drug sometimes sold as a counterfeit version of oxycodone.
More than 650 Canadians have died from fentanyl-related overdoses between 2009 and 2014, according to research from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. British Columbia has seen a surge in fentanyl-related fatalities, from 15 deaths in 2012 to 75 in 2014. So far in 2015, at least 55 people have died after using the drug.
Last Sunday, police in Vancouver responded to 16 fentanyl-related overdoses in a single day.
The death of child is devastating, but Schulz said she and her family faced an additional blow.
“When you lose a child to addiction, there’s an initial stigma that’s attached to it,” she said. “While we were sad about the fact that Danny died, we are not ashamed of him, what he did or who he was.”
Schulz says Danny was a talented singer, chef and loyal brother. He was so delightfully different, in his obituary his parents recalled how, at the age of 3, Danny had one wish for his birthday: “A cactus.”
“He had very proud moments. He was a talented young chef who had a bright career in front of him,” his mother said.
While efforts to tackle the potentially fatal effects of abusing fentanyl have recently made headlines, Danny’s parents believe a shift in the way we discuss addiction is essential in efforts to curb the growing number of tragedies.
“We feel that, as long as we treat addiction as something that we have to be ashamed of, people will be too afraid to come out and seek help. It’s the same situation as with mental health issues. People need to learn that mental health is just like any other health issue. Addiction is not something that you need to be afraid of.”
Since the loss of her son, Petra Schulz has become a strong voice for parents who have lost children to addiction.
“I recently spoke at a conference, and I really had a feeling that he was there with me. His memory does give me strength.”