‘He never woke up’: Overdose victims remembered in Halifax

Dozens of people gathered outside of Halifax City Hall to honour the lives of overdose victims for the annual International Overdose Awareness Day. Global News File Photo

Holding a photo of her grandson close to her heart, Gerry Scott joins in on a moment of silence with dozens of others, remembering those who lost their lives to drug overdose.

“He was at a birthday party and he had a few drinks and somebody was selling and he took a part of a pill, a prescription pill,” she said.

Scott said her grandson, Joshua Graves, fell asleep after that and never woke up.

The prescription pill he mixed with alcohol was later identified as hydromorphone, an opioid class of drug used to treat pain.

Scott’s story of heartbreak is one of thousands, all honoured during International Overdose Awareness Day.

READ MORE: Questions remain over Nova Scotia opioid use, overdose framework: advocate

The annual event held around the world to raise awareness about the deadly impact of drug overdoses and the need for increased access to treatment.

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It’s a hard road to medical care that Haligonian, Julien Carette knows all too well.

“I have an addictions counselor and even with her help it’s very hard for me to get into detox and there’s even stigma within that community [medical community],” said Carette, a member of the Halifax Area Network of Drug Using People [HANDUP]. “Alcoholics may get chosen over someone else who has a drug problem. I’ve been judged by nurses and doctors within facilities.”

Scott said stigma is something her family dealt with in the aftermath of Joshua’s overdose.

“It was even a stigma with us at first because we kept saying, ‘well he died from a drug overdose but he wasn’t a drug addict’. We wanted to make sure everyone knew that. Now, it isn’t as important to us anymore and it doesn’t really matter because he died, whether it was the first time or the 50th time he used,” she said.

A group of people marched down to Halifax City Hall where an official proclamation was presented by Mayor Mike Savage, proclaiming Aug. 31, 2017 as “Overdose Awareness Day” in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

According to statistics from the Nova Scotia Medical Examiner’s Officer, 81 people died from acute drug toxicity in 2016.


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