Saint-Lazare family remembers late son with opioid awareness message

International Overdose Awareness Day takes on new meaning for St-Lazare family
WATCH: On the eve of International Overdose Awareness Day, a family hopes the death of their teenage son will shed light on the dangers of fentanyl. As Global's Shakti Langlois-Ortega reports, a gathering is planned in downtown Montreal on Saturday to commemorate lives lost to drug overdoses.

Just ahead of International Overdose Awareness Day — Aug. 31 — a Saint-Lazare family hopes the death of their son will warn others of the dangers of opioids.

Charlene Vacon and Rob MacIsaac lost their son to a fentanyl overdose on June 29.

Archie MacIsaac-Vacon was 19 years old.

He was found unconscious in the bathroom of a downtown bar.

“He was magnificent in so many ways,” said Vacon.

“He knew more than I could ever imagine to know about fentanyl. And this still happened to him. So it’s not a simple matter of educating people, it is a matter of giving them the tools and the knowledge to take better care of themselves.”

READ MORE: Should bars be equipped with Naloxone kits?

Since Archie’s death, Vacon, who is a paramedic, has made it her mission to prevent more overdoses.

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A march for International Overdose Awareness Day will be held at Place Émilie-Gamelin at 1 p.m on Aug. 31.

They’re now channeling their grief into demands for change from all levels of government.

“I want a national task force on opioids. We’re in an emergency and the current response is not working,” she said.

“Overdose is a very preventable problem and sadly we’re not preventing enough.”

In 2017 and in the first few months of 2018, between four and seven people died from drug overdose per month in the Montreal area, said Carole Morissette, the public chief for Montreal Public Health.

WATCH (Aug. 29, 2019): Local groups push for more naloxone kits on Saskatoon streets

Local groups push for more naloxone kits on Saskatoon streets
Local groups push for more naloxone kits on Saskatoon streets

So far this year, five people died every month from what is believed to be a drug or opioid overdose.

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Vacon says it is crucial to spread what she calls life-saving information.

One thing that could have saved her son, for example, are opioid test strips, she said.

“It’s about a dollar for a test strip, and, boy, it’s a dollar well spent if you find out there’s fentanyl in what you think is cocaine,” she said.

READ MORE: Grieving Quebec family calls for more action in fighting fentanyl crisis

Public health recommends testing drugs become using them. Test strips can be found online or at different organizations around the city.

They also encourage people to get a fentanyl overdose reversal kit, called Naloxone, which is available in most Quebec pharmacies.

Vacon plans to visit CEGEP students in the near future to share her message and promote vigilance.

“If you normalize carrying Naloxone with you, if you normalize fentanyl test strips, if you normalize the buddy system for taking drugs, what does that tell people? It tells people that if you’re going to do drugs, to experiment or be curious in this way, we’re going to support you, we want you to be safer,” she said.