A father's emotional and blunt letter about teenage drug addiction and overdoses in Kanata has gone viral.
Sean O'Leary started off by sending the letter to several parents in his neighbourhood who also had children using drugs. He said that initial letter was quickly spread with others, and demand got so high he posted it on Facebook Sunday.
"My goal is not to try and solve the drug problem. It has been going on for many decades but never before right now have the drugs been indiscriminately taking our children’s lives," he wrote in the letter.
"The first thing I would like to do is have a meeting with as many parents of addicts/abusers as I can find. We have all experienced the futility of dealing with this scourge on our own. We the parents of these kids and future kids need to unite for ourselves and for our kids."
O'Leary's 16-year-old daughter, Paige, started using drugs in the Summer before her grade 10 year. She said she was offered it at a party and decided one hit wouldn't be so bad; her friends were all doing it as well.
"I really didn't think I would get to this point in my life where I needed drugs," she told CTV Ottawa.
Paige said it got to the point where she was using drugs every day. Although she has had help over the last 20 months or so, and has detoxed several times with her parents help, she has only recently gotten clean.
"It's huge. I know so many people doing them now. It's starting to become a really big problem," Paige said about drug use among teenagers in and around Kanata.
Paige and her father decided to speak out about their family's struggles after the apparent overdose death of 14-year-old Chloe Kotval. Kotval was found unresponsive on Sunday and died on Tuesday at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. In a statement issued after her death, Kotval's family said drugs were not part of her life.
"Chloe made a horrible mistake and ultimately paid a dear price, but drugs were not a part of her life," Kotval's parents, Neville Kotval and Shannon Edwards wrote in a statement. "We are concerned about the epidemic nature of the use of high grade pharmaceuticals amongst young people and their lack of knowledge about them – the consequences of using them are real and terrible.”
The local councilor for the area Allan Hubley said he is aware of at least three deadly overdoses among youth and several other close calls in the area since Christmas. He said he is concerned about what appears to be a rise in overdoses in his ward and the presence of fentanyl, a highly addictive and powerful painkiller, in drugs.
"Out here there are a lot of house parties, the night life for young people and someone can pass something by saying hey it's fun and the next thing you know you are a statistic and your parents are grieving," he said.
Hubley said he wants parents and children to talk about drugs, specifically the dangers and potential harms of fentanyl. He also wants teenagers, and others, to call 9-1-1 if they suspect a drug has been laced with fentanyl without their knowledge.
"What these people (drug dealers) are doing is trying to deliberately hurt our children," Hubley said. "We know the results of it."
O'Leary is hoping that by sharing their story he can help other parents cope with their child's drug addiction and prevent other kids from using.
"50 families watching out for 50 kids has got to be better than what we are doing now," he said.
O'Leary said he is hosting an event on Thursday for parents in the area who are in a similar situation. He said a larger, more public meeting is being organized with the help of the local councillor sometime in the near future.
"The families stepping intop it right now are stepping into the worst nightmare," he said. "My thing is tro try and keep these kids, children and teens alive for them to make that choice (to get better)."