'It's a war on people': Alberta dad slams province's 'war on drugs' after son born opiate dependent

Elizabeth Di Filippo
William was born with a dependance to opiates, but is now "happy and healthy." Image courtesy of Quinn Moerike/Facebook.
William was born with a dependance to opiates, but is now "happy and healthy." Image courtesy of Quinn Moerike/Facebook.

An Alberta father has taken to social media to urge the provincial government to reconsider its approach to the so-called “war on drugs.”

Just days before Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced a formal review and freezing of funding to Supervised Consumption sites, Quinn Moerike’s adopted newborn son William safely transitioned off of morphine after being born with a opiate dependency.

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In a Facebook post that has been shared more than 1,200 times, the Edmonton father-of-two said there’s no “conceptual difference” between the medically supervised care his son received and the care Albertan drug users receive using safe injection sites.

Moerike revealed that his son’s birth mother “did everything she could” to ensure she gave birth to a healthy baby. In an interview with Yahoo Canada, Moerike explained that his son’s birth mother made the responsible choice to switch to methadone, a safer alternative to opioids that is often used to help treat opiate addiction during pregnancy as soon as she learned she was pregnant.

Through the province’s methadone program, Moerike explained that his son’s mother had a “safe supply” and take the opiates that both she and her baby required at that point to survive and for William to grow.

Although baby William was born dependent on opiates, he was under constant medical care during the first few weeks of his life.

Newborns born dependant on opiates go “cold turkey” as soon as their umbilical cords are cut, and require medications such as methadone or morphine to help manage withdrawal side effects such as body shakes, seizures, fever, breathing issues, diarrhea and trouble sleeping referred to as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

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After weeks in hospital, William was allowed to go home with his adoptive parents, and has grown into a “happy and healthy” three-month-old.

“There’s no conceptual difference between a person going to a safe consumption site and using with medical professional present in the safest way possible in order to save their lives, and the way that my son’s birth mother and my son himself were able to access the same system to have a medical professional supervising their intake so that they can get better,” Moerike said. “Without those things, my son almost certainly would have died.”

A Vancouver safe injection site. Image via Getty Images.
A Vancouver safe injection site. Image via Getty Images.

Moerike is concerned that the province’s approach to the opioid crisis will get rid of supervised consumption sites, which were created to help manage the effect of the province’s opioid crisis by providing access to sterile equipment, naloxone administration in the case of an overdose and help connect drug users to social services and resources to treat mental health issues and opioid dependency.

“I absolutely believe with 100 per cent confidence that everybody in that government is trying to do what they think is right for the people of Alberta, but on this issue they’re absolutely wrong,” he said of Alberta legislature and Premier Kenney’s latest move. “And they’re wrong at a moment where we’re in crisis.They’re stopping something that we know without a shadow of a doubt saves lives. Frankly, people are going to die.”

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According to recent reports, an average of two Albertans die each day due to accidental opioid-related overdose. On a national scale, approximately 10,300 Canadians died from opioid related deaths between January and September 2018.

Moerike says he hoped sharing his story would help people rethink how they view opioid addiction, and encourage people to think of drug addiction as something “happening to humans” rather than “those people.”

Image via Getty Images.
Image via Getty Images.

“I just wanted to make a point that there’s no difference between my son’s shining face and anybody else,” he said of his now viral Facebook post. “I think what people think is that [drug dependants] are some sketchy people dropping needles in a playground. Well, it’s not. It’s babies and mothers and families that are being affected.”

Reframing the approach to drug users and investing in harm reduction rather than freezing funding will hopefully change opinions and save lives.

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“No matter which province it is, I wish people would see the issue for what it is; it’s really having compassion and mercy for people in our midst who are suffering the most,” Moerike said. “Nobody grows up wanting to be a drug addict. I am a person who has drug addiction in my background. You don’t grow up wanting that life for yourself. It comes from places of pain and torment and childhood trauma. It comes from a place of people really being hurt. This so-called ‘war on drugs’ isn’t a war on drugs at all. It’s a war on people who need our help.”

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