Victoria parents co-author guide for parents who have children facing substance use disorders

A B.C. advocate for more compassionate drug policies and the co-founder of Moms Stop the Harm says a new guidebook to help support parents with a child who is facing a substance use disorder should be distributed far and wide.

Leslie McBain lost her only child to a drug overdose in 2014 when he was 25-years-old – and she says she wishes she had the handbook that a group of Victoria parents and caregivers have just released.

The 106-page guide is called Parents Like Us: The unofficial survival guide to parent a young person with a substance use disorder. It covers a plethora of topics, including early warning signs for substance use, harm reduction tips, naloxone access and information, ways for parents to stay connected to their child, resources, and heartfelt reflections from parents.

"They’ve taken a beautiful approach of compassion and understanding," said McBain from her home on Pender Island.

"I wish I had that guidebook when my son was in addiction – he may still be alive today."

The authors say the book is for parents like them who are part of a club "we never wanted to be in."

It can be accessed online through Foundry, a health and wellness group serving people aged 12-24. It was developed as part of the Improving Treatment Together Project and is co-led by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, FoundryBC and Foundry Victoria.

Foundry says the launch of the handbook is timely as youth overdoses have been rising.

"Since the overdose crisis was declared a public health emergency in 2016, over 100 young people under the age of 19 in B.C. died from toxic illicit drug poisoning," said the organization in a release.

"One of the most poignant things that I saw was to not get into arguments," said McBain, referring to one of the chapters in the guide.

"To take a softer approach – it’s hard because we’re fearful," she said.

The section on staying connected with your child encourages parents to trust their gut as much as they can.

"It’s okay to screw up and say the wrong thing sometimes," it says. "The most important thing is to find ways to stay connected with your young person."

There’s also advice on harm reduction, which McBain agrees are often contrary to a parent’s first reaction – like a suggestion to stay with your child while they use in case of an overdose.

"The first order is to keep people alive because people who are dead do not ever recover," she said.

Moms Stop the Harm hopes the handbook gets distributed throughout B.C. schools and to parent advisory councils with the resources section catered to each community.

McBain had no part in the creation of the document. 

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