The Opioid Chapters: Chapter 1 - Benjamin
Benjamin was first prescribed opioids to manage dental pain. He has tried to stop taking them several times, but finds he needs them to cope with his experiences of childhood mental illness and trauma.
I grew up in a suburban family. My father was a police officer and my mom was a special needs teacher. My mother started to struggle with mental illness. She would regularly try and commit suicide. I was exposed to a lot of trauma. To escape, I would go out with friends and do whatever drugs or alcohol we could get our hands on. I ended up dropping out of high school in Grade 11. I began to work in restaurants, but most of my free time was spent getting drunk or high. I went on like that for years.
The years of partying and living in poverty took their toll on my teeth. I got dental abscesses that were so painful I couldn’t work anymore and was struggling to do anything with my children. I had a dental plan at work, but they capped it at $500 a year, which didn’t help when I needed $3,000. So my doctor prescribed Percocets—eight a day. He gave me a fucking vat. Like, 400 pills. At first I took two a day. But within a few months I was taking 12 a day. I was running out of the drugs and went out on the street to fill the gap. That's when I realized I had drug a problem.
Nobody was giving me money to fix my teeth, but they would give me money to go to school. I decided to quit my job and go back to college. At first, my main reason for going to college wasn’t for an education, but to get some OSAP money I could use to fix my teeth. Every day in college and university I was high off my ass. No doubt about it. There seems to be a stereotype that if you do drugs, you’re going to screw everything up. I am the opposite. Give me opioids every day and I will accomplish amazing things.
The Opioid Chapters is a collaborative project by the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network (ODPRN) and Healthy Debate: Faces of Health Care. This project was created to release a special edition series of interviews and multimedia content with individuals across Ontario who have lived experience with opioids, as well as other perspectives from physicians, community workers and family members.