Death Dealing: Who uses opioids in London?

As officials with the Middlesex-London Health Unit pursue a location for a supervised drug consumption site, reporter Liny Lamberink takes an in-depth look at opioid use in London, Ont., in part one of our Death Dealing series.

It was May 6, 2006, when Josh first injected drugs on William Street north of Dundas in London.

The 37-year-old started shooting up a mixture of Oxycontin and cocaine after getting introduced to drugs by a friend from his hometown of Chatham.

“From then on I didn’t stop. I had a needle in my arm every day,” he said.

LISTEN: Part 1 of Death Dealing, a look at opioid use in London, Ont. 

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Josh sits inside Tim Hortons, roughly six months after his first interview with 980 CFPL’s Liny Lamberink. Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL

Josh described himself as being in the early stages of recovery in the fall of 2017 but said he’d relapsed half a dozen times since moving into a one room apartment six months prior. He’s one of roughly 6,000 people who use injection drugs in London.

The misuse of opioids has killed thousands of people across the country over the past decade, including nearly 400 in London.

London is a mid-sized city with a big-city drug problem, according to the medical officer of health, Chris Mackie. Last year, London had the third-highest rate of opioid overdoses in Canada.

MORE: Death Dealing Part Two: Opioids aren't the problem

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Last September, a city committee endorsed an existing opioid working group. Part of its task is to look into the city’s existing approach to the rising number of overdose deaths.

Mackie was looking for people who had lived in London’s drug scene to join the opioid working group and was introduced to Josh.

“He has insight into his own behaviour, his own history, what’s happening in the community. He’s a great person to be working on the opioid crisis response.”

Kirk Foat and his wife, Anna Foat, want to see health care professionals learn more about tapering, after Kirk weaned himself entirely off the opioids he’d been using to manage pain for eight years. Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL

But Josh isn’t the only face of opioid-use in London; so is Kirk Foat, a 50-year-old London man who lives in the northwest end of the city with his wife, Anna, and their two young sons.

READ MORE: Death Dealing Part Three: What London is doing about opioids

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Kirk relied on prescribed opioids for about eight years as a way of managing pain from a hand injury.

But somewhere along the way, Kirk realized the medication wasn’t working for him anymore. In fact, he felt it was working against him.

“I know pain is very complicated, pain is very personal, but for me tapering down to zero was the absolute best thing that I’ve ever done for myself, for my family, and even my pain.”

It took Kirk seven months to wean himself off his opioid prescription. It took him nine months after that, to feel normal again.

Now, he and Anna are trying to make a change.

They want to make sure anyone else who decides to taper off opioids will find more support and research along the way. That’s coming up on Death Dealing Pt. 2, which airs Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. on 980 CFPL.

Share your stories of how opioid use has affected you via the form below or on Twitter using the hashtag #DeathDealing. Your submission may be used in our future coverage. However, Global News won’t share your name and contact information without your permission.

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MORE: Death Dealing Part Three: What London is doing about opioids

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