Kawartha 411 connects with drug users who shared their thoughts on Peterborough’s ‘opioid crisis’
This is Part 2 of a series of stories Kawartha 411 is writing about the opioid crisis in Peterborough and Kawartha Lakes.
PETERBOROUGH-A struggling Peterborough couple has some simple advice for people who are trying to get off the city’s mean streets: “Get off drugs.”
It sounds like a ‘ just say no’ lecture but it is not and that’s not what I mean by it,” said Jamie-Lee Lyddon, a young woman who Kawartha 411 found downtown Peterborough earlier this week, sharing a piece of grass with her friend near the bus depot.
“You have to convince people that they can have a better life if they get off drugs – whatever the drugs are. You can have all the shelters and rehab and detox and assistance programs you want, until someone believes they can have a better life without drugs, there is very little you can do for them,” Lyddon said. “Yes, housing is a problem. There is very little affordable housing. Now that the weather is nicer, you see more and more homeless people downtown. They have nowhere else to go.”
Her friend, Jon MacLean, who said he lived in Peterborough all his life, was nursing what he described as a ‘dead arm’ – a right arm that he could not lift.
“This is what fentanyl will do to you. I went to the hospital. They wouldn’t do anything for me. They just sent me away,” he said.
MacLean added that like many of Peterborough’s downtown, drug-addicted, homeless population, he is caught up in what he called the ‘revolving door’ justice system.
“I got charged, in my case, with domestic assault. I was sort of forced into pleading guilty. Well now I have a record and that drastically affects my ability to get a job or find housing. Once you are in the justice system you are in it for life. That record follows me around wherever I go,” he said. “Lies get made up. BS gets told to the police and I end up in jail. My baby mother beat me up but because she was scared I might retaliate, she called the cops. The cops always believe whoever called them first.”
Both MacLean and Lyddon said that there absolutely is an opioid crisis in Peterborough. They both agree that a lack of housing and the justice system – the way it currently operates – are two big reasons for the crisis, but added there is also the users themselves who have to accept some of the blame.
“They get depression. Then they get anxiety. Then they think to themselves that they can’t get off drugs. Then they think they should self-medicate with drugs and then they take a drug for the first time. Then they take too much of it. And then they die. It is a vicious cycle,” said Lyddon.
Indeed, according to statistics released by Peterborough Public Health last month, there were at least seven suspected drug-related deaths in the city in April alone, and at least 14 so far this year. Front line workers have pointed out that most of these deaths are not overdose deaths but are drug-poisoning deaths. The victims have consumed, in most cases opioids like fentanyl or oxycontin, that have been laced or cut with toxic materials – poisoned chemicals.
“The shelter option doesn’t work for me. You can’t sleep or if you do you sleep, you do it with one eye open. If you don’t, you might get robbed, stabbed or both,” he said. “But again I go back to the justice system and the jail environment. Of course, you are going to meet other drug users in there. Well, now you are making plans with them to meet up and do drugs on the outside.”
Both MacLean and Lyddon addressed a common theme among some long-time Peterborough residents who Kawartha 411 has spoken to and that is that most of these drug-addicted, homeless people downtown are not from here.
“They’re not. What happens is they go to shelters in the cities where they are from. Those shelters are full and someone tells them to try Peterborough – that there is room in shelters in Peterborough. Then they get here, find there is no room in the shelter, and then they start looking for and finding drugs. They are everywhere in this city. They are not hard to find. Once they find the drugs, they end up staying,” MacLean said.
Another homeless person that Kawartha 411 ran into was a man named Brian who asked that his last name not be used. He has been living this spring under a bridge on Little Lake in East City. He admitted to us that he does use illicit drugs.
“I don’t consider myself homeless. I am just camping really,” Brian said. “I’m comfortable with it. I’m not in a dangerous situation. I can see all around me. Nobody really knows I’m there. There are others who have set up encampments nearby. There aren’t too many of us – but we all keep an eye out for each other. We know for instance when someone is not at their site.” We all look out for one and other. It’s our neighbourhood watch and it helps.
Brian said he has used the shelter system in Peterborough. And although he said he was never robbed or harmed in a shelter, he prefers to be outside on his own.
“I am self-sufficient. My friends are my social safety net. I know enough people who care about me – who look out for me and make sure I am okay. I do the same for them,” Brian said. “I am not a drag on the taxpayer.”
He too agreed with MacLean that the justice system is a big part of the problem.
“When you get released from jail you are offered transportation to wherever you are from. But many don’t take that bus ticket. They stay. They stay because they met someone in jail who gave them a phone number of someone who can hook them up with drugs. So they end up staying in Peterborough,” Brian said.
Another young woman who Kawartha 411 talked to identified herself by her street name of ‘Cash.’ We spoke to her at noon hour in a downtown park.
“Sure I use drugs and I am sometimes homeless. But I do not consider myself to be a homeless, drug addict, Cash said. “I am just a party girl. I don’t ask anyone for help. I don’t need anybody’s help with anything and I don’t want anybody’s help to get off drugs.”
Here is a link to Part 1 of our series:https://www.kawartha411.ca/2022/04/30/peterborough-artist-recovering-addict-says-latest-drug-related-death-stats-show-current-system-isnt-working/
In Part 3 of the series, we hear from a City of Kawartha Lakes police officer who is on the front lines of the opioid crisis in Kawartha Lakes.
Peterborough Public Health advises if you use substances:
- Do not use drugs alone.
- If you using with a friend, do not use at the exact same time.
- Have a plan – Ask someone to check on you or call the National Overdose Response Service 1-888-688-6677.
- Carry a naloxone kit. Keep it visible and close by.
- Avoid mixing drugs.
- Test your drug by using a small amount first.
- Call 911 immediately if someone starts to show signs of an overdose and/or cannot be resuscitated after naloxone is administered.