The Death of 'M': Opiates & Overdose

It was only four days after my opiate overdose training and Naloxone/Narcan certification that I found out 'M' had died of an overdose. I didn't know her on a personal level, yet the news of her death weighed heavily on me.

It was a gloomy Saturday morning, so instead of biking up to the pharmacy and risking a soaker, I decided to play it safe and take the bus. I arrived at the pharmacy, put back my dose as usual, and met up with one of my fellow Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) patients who also takes the same bus home from the pharmacy in the mornings. Doses down, we both headed towards our northbound bus-stop, me on my way to visit Grama, and the tall redhead making his way home. Once we arrived at the stop, we huddled underneath the nearest overhang, and waited for the bus. No rain yet, aside from the odd few drops.

This article was first published on Studio L. You can read the original here.

As we idly chatted away, he suddenly turned to me with a serious look on his face and asked "Oh my god, did you hear that 'M' died?!" I hadn't heard. "What? No. When? Are you serious? How? What happened?" I asked, several questions spilling out of my mouth at once. 'M' was undoubtedly a very long-term, heavy user who regularly mixed her drugs, but I certainly wasn't expecting that news; nor was I prepared to hear it. I don't think you can ever truly be prepared to hear that kind of news.

I stood there staring at him, slowly shaking my head as he explained the details of what he had heard. He told me that, according to those who knew her, it was an unfortunate mix of opiates, benzodiazepines and antipsychotics that ended up taking her life.

'M' was an active user and fellow methadone patient, who also happened to have a penchant for dosing first thing in the morning; just like me. It was those morning visits to the pharmacy where I would run into her fairly regularly, crossing each other's path at least once every couple days. I didn't know her well at all, but regardless of this she always greeted me with a friendly hello, often calling me "sweetheart." Despite the fact that we were technically nothing more than acquaintances, the news of her death has been weighing on me much more than I ever expected that it would upon my first hearing about it. When you see a person every couple days for well over 3 years straight, they become much more than just a familiar face.

The bus finally pulled up to our stop, which happened be located no more than 50 feet from the front steps of the apartment building in which 'M' had lived. I scurried out from underneath the overhang, boarded the bus, and plopped myself down on the empty row of seats at the front of the bus. The tall redhead slouched down in the seat across from me, followed by a shorter male I recognized from my morning methadone trips. As the bus began to pull away, he raised his arm and pointed towards the large bus window directly behind me.

"Look," he said, gesturing towards the parking lot of 'M''s building, "there's still a cop car posted up in the building's parking lot." I turned my head, gazing out the window at the lone cop car parked in the lot as the bus slowly began to pull away.

The conversation stayed on the topic of 'M' for the entire bus trip, with the two men across from me telling me little tidbits about 'M's' life and story. The fact that she was an active user, methadone patient, and relatively recognizable figure on the area streets, does not in any way negate or lessen her impact or the sadness of the situation. A person who uses drugs is exactly that; a person. A person with a family, friends, a life and a story. Abruptly, the tall redhead stood up, waved goodbye, and exited the bus. The rest of the ride was silence.

As the bus finally pulled up to my stop, I said goodbye to the guys and made my way to the rear exit as drops of rain began to lightly sprinkle across the bus windows. I exited the bus and looked up toward the sky, inspecting the ominous looking clouds that were beginning to move in. I made my way across the street, and onto the small pathway between houses that lead to my Grama's building, the rain gently hitting my face. I slowly made my way along the path, carrying a heaviness along with me that I hadn't felt when I left the house this morning.

The gloomy, rainy weekend that awaited me was an all too perfect reflection of my mood.

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Studio L is a freelance writer living in Southwestern Ontario. She is a recovering IV drug user, methadone patient, and harm reduction advocate, and covers these issues in her blog.