Before she gently stroked his hair and kissed him on the cheek, Joanne Campbell shook her son and yelled at him to wake up. He was lying on a hospital bed and she was beside herself with grief.
Moments before, she had been told Tyler was dead at 17, likely from an overdose of Fentanyl, a powerful opioid painkiller and psychoactive chemical available only by prescription. She collapsed on the floor and then went to her son on the bed.
“I was in complete shock. I couldn’t breathe. I was just sick,” she says. “I was just screaming and yelling. He was just lying there.”
The Aug. 4 death of Tyler Campbell brought tragic attention to an increasing problem with Fentanyl abuse in Manotick, a situation police say has escalated to alarming heights. Addicted teenagers have resorted to residential break-ins looking for electronics, jewelry or anything they can sell to finance their addiction.
It’s unclear where the teens are getting their drugs, and police continue to investigate.
And It now seems the problem may have spread beyond Manotick. In the past three months, police have identified 20 to 25 break-ins in nearby Barrhaven they believe could be linked to the Fentanyl problem exploding in Manotick.
“It’s more widespread now,” says Const. Ryan O’Neil, a detective with the Ottawa police break and enter team. “It’s quite rampant.”
While police estimate about 30 high school students in Manotick are hooked on the opiate, Fentanyl abuse in the rest of the city is not as widespread as it is with other drugs, such as OxyContin.
The spike in Fentanyl abuse in the village south of Ottawa surfaced before a new version of OxyContin was introduced, which police thought might increase the use of other opiates.
OxyNeo pills are opioid painkillers just like their predecessor, but they have been hardened to prevent the risk of being broken, crushed or chewed.
Gary Wand, the associate director of Harvest House, an Ottawa rehabilitation centre, says he doesn’t expect Fentanyl abuse to spike in the rest of the city.
“You need to keep refuelling,” Wand says. “It’s like crack cocaine in an opiate — you have to keep taking more very quickly.”
That makes it more difficult to stay high. And because the high from smoking or injecting Fentanyl doesn’t last very long, Wand says that turns the more serious drug user to other opiates.
But in Manotick, for some reason, it seems to be a different story. The teenagers smoke, inject or ingest the drug, going through about one 75-milligram Fentanyl patch and $350 every two days, according to police.
According to Health Canada, Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate analgesic similar to morphine, but more potent. It is typically prescribed to treat patients with severe pain or to manage pain after surgery. It is also sometimes used to treat people with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to opiates.
“It is an extremely, extremely dangerous drug,” says Staff Sgt. Kal Ghadban, the officer in charge of the break and enter team. “It literally is a Russian roulette with these kids when they’re using it.”
A Manotick boy admitted to O’Neil that after he got hooked on Fentanyl he turned to crime to pay for his habit.
The boy, who under the Youth Criminal Justice Act who cannot be named, was first charged with 12 Manotick break-ins in September 2011. He was released from jail and with the help of O’Neil, went through drug treatment court before he checked into a rehab centre.
The boy didn’t follow all of the rules at the rehab centre, got kicked out and ended up committing another dozen break-ins before he was arrested again in January.
The boy had never been in trouble with police before. He had achieved good grades in high school and several universities were looking at him for a possible football scholarship. But last April, the boy began abusing Fentanyl patches and became hooked.
“The high is like no other drug they’ve taken,” O’Neil says. “I think it puts them in a fantasy land — they are right out of it. In that short period of time, his whole personality, his character, everything just changed as a direct result of this addiction.”
As the boy waited in jail for a bed at a rehab centre to open up, a third rash of break-ins occurred, this time in Barrhaven. Police believe those may be related to the ones in Manotick.
Ghadban said a school resource officer in Manotick and two patrol officers intervened early in the 2011 school year, about a year ago. By the end of the year, Fentanyl abuse had increased significantly and the residential break-ins began in early 2012.
“Now they’re not just using, but they’re committing crimes,” Ghadban said.
Const. Monique Paquette, the school resource officer at St. Mark High School, began working with a counsellor from Rideauwood Addiction Family and Services to identify teenagers who were addicted to drugs, and some of the students went into treatment programs.
Paquette brought in a pharmacist give presentations at the school to help explain the Fentanyl’s dangerous effects. Meanwhile, two patrol officers began to spend more time in the community, talking to parents and teenagers about abuse of the drug.
“It’s not like this caught us off guard by any means,” Ghadban says. “Once we found out about it, we put measures in place to combat it and help the people who needed help.”
Despite early intervention and proactive policing, though, Fentanyl continued to plague Manotick.
Tyler Campbell’s death sent shock waves through the small community.
Joanne Campbell sensed something wasn’t right with her son six months ago. Money, electronics and jewelry began to disappear from her home. Tyler worked steadily at Tim Hortons, but never seemed to have any money.
He became increasingly moody, had bags under his eyes and was often tired. Concerned that her son was on drugs, Campbell tried to talk to him a week before he died.
“He would be sitting there one minute and he would start nodding off and jolt himself up,” Campbell says.
On Aug. 4, she got a call that her son had been taken to the hospital without vital signs. Her ex-husband had woken Tyler up for work and discovered he was “cold and blue,” Campbell says.
An hour later, the teenager was pronounced dead at a Kemptville hospital.
Several worried parents, shaken by Tyler’s death, approached Lisa MacLeod, the Conservative MPP for Nepean-Carleton, about the rampant drug problem in Manotick.
“There’s almost a crisis situation in our community,” MacLeod says. “You’re talking about people who should be starting the next chapter of their life.”
MacLeod met Friday with Ottawa police, who have agreed to hold a public information session.
For MacLeod, her goal is to educate parents about warning signs, something Campbell discovered too late.
By Meghan Hurley, Ottawa Citizen, Monday October 1st, 2012.
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Big Trouble in the Suburbs: 17yr old dies of overdose as Fentanyl abuse increases