Morgan Goodridge wanted to get better.
Eight days after his 26th birthday, he overdosed on toxic drugs.
His mother Kathleen Radu said Morgan was in detox at the time of his death. He hadn’t used drugs in five months.
“He relapsed five times in the 18 months and on the sixth relapse is when he died,” said Radu from her home in Victoria, B.C.
“Worst day of our life.
“He never lived on the streets, he was never homeless, he didn’t have a criminal record. This was somebody who was holding it all together and he was living in this darkness of his addiction and his struggle.
“If I could say one thing about Morgan is that he hated his addiction more than anything.”
Radu said while in recovery, Morgan traced back when and how his drug addiction started. He began using recreational drugs like marijuana when he was 14 to help deal with trauma he experienced at a workplace.
His family could see him changing.
Soon, Morgan started hanging out with different friends and became insecure. Radu’s fun-loving, adventurous son started using heroin.
Morgan tried to get help on his own and detox, but it wasn’t until 2018, when he almost died from septic shock that his family realized his drug use had pushed him to the brink of death.
His mother said Morgan knew he needed help and that he had “crossed the line from party drugs to street drugs.”
The wait list for provincially funded support was too long, so the family paid for treatment out of pocket.
“We didn’t know how dark this rabbit hole was,” said Radu.
Tragically, Morgan’s death is just one of more than 1,700 accidental toxic drug deaths counted in British Columbia last year.
It was the province’s worst year ever for illicit drug overdose deaths.
Those overdoses included street drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and illicit fentanyl, as well as medications bought on the street.
The BC Coroners Service released data up to February 2021 and pointed to a disturbing spike in illicit drug toxicity deaths.
In February, 155 illicit drug overdose deaths were reported — a 107 per cent increase over February 2020.
It equates to 5.5 deaths per day.
In Alberta, the province said 1,281 people died from drug poisoning in 2020.
The number of deaths started to climb in March, at the start of the pandemic — 151 people died in the month of July alone.
Petra Schulz, co-founder of the group Moms Stop the Harm, said COVID-19 has overshadowed the other health crisis in the province.
“We are losing about three people a day right now in this province to the second health crisis.
“I have heard from so many people who were in recovery and relapsed during COVID because of the social isolation.”
At the time of Morgan’s death, his mother said her son lost the things he depended on to help tackle his drug dependency.
Morgan had gone from 125 pounds to 195 pounds and was swimming and going to the gym every day.
All that stopped when the pandemic and social distancing health restrictions were brought in. Morgan lost his routine and critical connections. He tried to cope alone. His family had always been supportive, but Radu said she came to understand that relapse is a part of recovery.
Radu is also a member of Moms Stop the Harm and said it’s bittersweet that its members are growing — a tragic sign of the growing epidemic.
In the last three months alone, membership sign-ups have increased by 25 per cent and now include more than 2,000 families. The group said the unrelenting drug poisoning crisis has claimed the lives of at least 20,000 Canadians since 2016.
“We are so tired of all the little Band-Aids. What we need is a plan,” said Radu.
She said drug addictions should be treated like any other disease and called on all governments to build a plan as robust as she’s witnessed with COVID.
“I believe that we don’t have enough brave politicians standing up and saying, ‘We’re going to make a change here, this needs a shift.'”
Radu said B.C. should be leading the way by providing fully funded trauma care to drug addicts, as well as treatment for families. She said access to a continuum of care, similar to cancer care, would help save lives.
Moms Stop the Harm is calling on the Government of Canada to declare the overdose crisis a national public health emergency.
It said pushing out the toxic drug supply by providing a pharmaceutical alternative must also be a priority, along with decriminalization.
“It almost, it feels like we are losing a generation they way we did during the war,” said Schulz.
Schulz knows what it’s like to lose a loved one to an accidental overdose. Her son Danny died from a fentanyl overdose in 2014. She has continued her battle for others, like the mother she knows who recently lost her third child to substance abuse.
Radu said she is now fighting for other sons and daughters like Morgan, who wanted to live a “full, wonderful, happy life.”
“You try to find meaning in the loss of a child.
“Addiction is insanity. It’s the most insane roller-coaster ride you can imagine and I was only doing it alongside of him,” said Radu, knowing her son woke up every day to face “so much pain and so much pull from this horrendous disease.
“In my mind he was super brave.”