Fentanyl epidemic hits home: Tragedy prompts local couple to speak up

Adam Pouliot, 26, enjoying a beautiful day on the slopes in Sun Peaks. - Photo Submitted
Adam Pouliot, 26, enjoying a beautiful day on the slopes in Sun Peaks. – Photo Submitted

Adam Pouliot was like a lot of 26-year-olds. He worked on the Sun Peaks golf course, skied with his friends and family, camped, loved nature and the outdoors. He had recently moved to Vernon, where he was making wedding plans with his fiancée.

On July 27, Leo and Melanie Pouliot of Sun Peaks received the phone call every parent dreads. Their son had unexpectedly passed away. After 10 long days of waiting, the toxicology report confirmed their fears— Adam’s cause of death was a fentanyl-laced
drug overdose.

An overwhelming number of families in B.C. have recently received similar phone calls. The provincial numbers are staggering.

According the B.C. Coroners Service, from January through to June 2016, there were 238 illicit drug overdose deaths with fentanyl detected, which is a 250 per cent increase over the same time period in 2015. In the Interior, fentanyl detected deaths rose from two in 2012 to 37 in first six months of 2016. This year is trending to be the deadliest on record.

In the vast majority of those deaths, at least one other substance was detected, meaning its likely users had no idea their drug of choice was laced with the deadly cutting agent. In B.C. fentanyl has been found in everything from cocaine to MDMA to heroin and even sprayed on marijuana, affecting everyone from recreational users to people facing drug addiction.

Manufactures are using it to enhance both the power and addictive quality of illegal drugs.

“The (regional) coroner on (Adam’s) case, the words that she used, is that this is a pandemic health crisis,” said Melanie. “We want there to be awareness created from these tragedies that are happening and for there to be more compassion for those that need help and more education.”

It’s the need to spread the word that has motivated the couple in the weeks following Adam’s death. They’ve written letters to government, reached out to media and connected with others who have lost loved ones in similar circumstances. For a couple who would rather not draw attention to themselves and grieve privately, it’s been an even harder road to follow.

“We would prefer to not be doing this. But because he lived here and this is our home, and we care about the people who live here, if it can help in any way,” said Leo.

While there haven’t yet been any fentanyl-related incidents in Sun Peaks, Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR) and Sun Peaks Fire and Rescue (SPFR) are aware of the provincial situation. SPFR is currently looking into carrying Naloxone, a drug which can quickly restart breathing after an opioid overdose.

SPR has been working to create awareness among their current staff and is also making plans for the influx of new staff this fall.

“From our standpoint, our awareness of the issue has certainly been heightened due to all the media coverage,” said Aidan Kelly, chief marketing officer for SPR. “The game has changed in the recreational drug world significantly over the past year. There is death happening in communities all over Canada. We’re seeing this more and more and it’s people that taking things that they don’t know they’re taking. There’s a lot of really sad cases out there.

“We had the conversation as a management team that we feel we have an obligation as an employer to inform our employees and help them make educated decisions as best they can because it’s a big issue in British Columbia these days.”

At their upcoming staff orientation in November, SPR is planning on renewing focus on health and wellness, including talking about the deadly trend.

“Staff coming from international destinations may not be aware of the situation in B.C. and the rest of Canada. We want to try and inform them. And a lot of our staff, it’s the first time they’ve moved away from home, so they need as much help as they can (get) to make smart lifestyle decisions and to take care of themselves. We need productive employees but it’s more about their personal well-being,” said Kelly.

The Pouliots agree.

“The dealers aren’t going to change. It’s up to us, the public, to make better choices for ourselves,” said Melanie

Melanie is now in her fourth season volunteering with Adaptive Sports Sun Peaks (ASSP) and lieu of flowers, asked for donations to be made to the Wulf Trotter Memorial Bursary. The annual goal of $500 to send a student to a development camp has now been met and almost doubled.

“We were very touched that she chose that and also just to make that choice at such a difficult time. It just really emphasizes the commitment that her and Leo have to this program. I think it’s a really nice tribute,” said Pat McKimmon, president of ASSP.
Unfortunately for Melanie and Leo, this isn’t completely uncharted territory for them.

“We lost our first son to cancer five years ago. To have this happen again. To have three boys then two of them are gone. It really hits hard for sure,” said Leo, adding they’ve appreciated all the support from the local community and have felt all the love and prayers from
Sun Peaks.

Comments

comments

13 COMMENTS

  1. Of course they would prefer not be in this situation, but they are and they are inspiration. I admire them for how gracefully they are publicly handling they’re private situation.

  2. So sorry for your loss!! It is not better in the United States. They are cutting it with a stronger fentanyl used in elephant tranquilizer that is killing people. It is so sad that knowing this the people keep doing it. Thank’s for sharing hopefully with God’s help at least one person may live.

  3. A very sad reason alot of people are dying from drug overdoses in BC is the absoloute fact anyone wanting help with addiction cannot get help from the provincial government. Apparently if you have money you can go for treatment but the provincial government wont help those who cannot afford to seek help.
    They are treated as non class citizens.
    I needed help and was refused.
    Thankfully I have overcome my poison with sheer will to live!!
    I am so sorry for your loss.
    My heartbreaks everytime I hear of more deaths.
    Wake up BC

  4. To Mr and Mrs pouliout….never even begin to imigaine how you feel .. I have had close friends near death because of this drug but they are still here .. maybe some of these dealers don’t even know what they are selling and for the hopes of all the users out there will realize that death brings bad attention .. I know that’s not anything anyone wants to read but it’s the truth … if things were legal and supervised by the poeple that know these things wouldn’t happen … again I am not condoning drug use but it will stand up for people that use.. there are many reasons and most of them have to do with some form of ptsd .. as a survivor of ptsd and an extreame case all I can say is I’m lucky I like food cuase that was my drug .. made me Fer but what ever for so any out there it’s needles and pipes and they are so misunderstood

  5. So sad to see happen! My mind is just boggled that dealer’s are continuing this trend without remorse for the folks they are hurting. They are literally killing their own customer’s, how does that equate to more profits?

    If this trend continues to grow, the government needs to step in by either a: legalization and distribution of all drugs, it may not be pretty but would you rather your child buy illegally from an unknown source in all aspects or have a government controlled program that would be safer?
    b: Harsher penalties for dealers and distributors for lacing with fentanyl, meaning that like drinking and driving you are literally dealing/distribute with the intent to kill making it attempted murder.

    Both have their pros, and cons. In a perfect world, option b would work, but time and time again we see that the war on drugs is failing, and the penalties people face don’t make a difference, criminals are like hydras, when you cut one head two more appear in it’s place. There will always be another dealer to fill that ones shoes.

    Just some food for thought..

  6. My son lost his life to Fentanyl 6 yrs ago. He was a young man 29 years old. I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. Four people died around the same time. The police did their job, but no charges were laid. He sounded like your son, he loved fishing, He like taking his snow machine out and ice fish with his dog. I am taking care of the boxer now. It is so sad. It feels like yesterday. I am so glad to see you as a family are trying to do something.

  7. For the love of All. When will people learn to deal with the ups and downs of life without turning to street drugs!!
    My heart goes out to all the families who have lost loved ones to this senseless tragedy!!

  8. Why is it surprising that dealers are continuing this trend? The drugs they sell to their customers can kill…without adding Fentanyl. If someone doesn’t use illegal drugs, they don’t have to worry about them being laced with Fentanyl. I feel awful for the families and loved ones, but the person made the choice (yes, in addicts cases they’re now addicted, but they started with a choice…however long ago) to take an illegal drug in the first place. I’m not saying they deserve to die for that choice, but overdosing is a risk of drug use, as is the possibility that what you take isn’t necessarily what you think it is.

  9. Hello Sherry,
    I, too, have lost a son (19 years of age) to Fentanyl. Unfortunately, because it was a legally prescribed drug, (sold illegally), he thought it was a SAFE way to get high (similar to the high of marijuana). NOPE! Not safe. The people selling their prescription drugs should also be held far more accountable.
    The pain is unbearable (it has already been 5 years), and the situation only seems to be getting worse in Canada (and the States). It makes me so sad to hear that people are still losing their lives to this garbage.
    Sherry
    Ontario

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