News / Vancouver

‘Don’t leave your friends alone,' grieving mother pleads during B.C. overdose crisis

Martin Janson would have turned 22 on Thursday. Instead, a tragic overdose cut short the life of the adventurous young traveller in 2014.

Martin Janson died of a suspected drug overdose in Whistler in 2014.

Contributed/Jennifer Janson

Martin Janson died of a suspected drug overdose in Whistler in 2014.

The mother of a young traveller who died of an accidental overdose in Whistler has advice for New Year’s eve revelers who may be considering experimenting with recreational drugs: don’t use alone.

Jennifer Janson’s son Martin passed away during the fall of 2014 of an accidental overdose involving cocaine and over the counter sleeping pills. The Australian traveller would have turned 22 on Thursday.

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For many in B.C, Martin Janson’s death has served as a grim reminder that the risks of drug use, particularly heightened by the fentanyl crisis, are now extreme even for occasional, recreational users.

Two years later, Jennifer remembers her son as happy, athletic and outgoing. He had just finished high school, and had plans to travel to Europe.

"This is why it's so upsetting because he was one of the most beautiful, generous, friendly go-to person that you could ever have," she said, speaking via Skype from Australia.

Martin Janson, like many 19-year-olds working in the service industry, had gone out with some friends to a club on a Monday night. After staying out late, he and his friends returned to staff housing where his parents believe they did cocaine. At some point in the evening, Jennifer believes Martin asked a friend for sleeping pills, and then retired to his room.

According to Carrie Stefanson, a public affairs officer with Vancouver Coastal Health, it is not known exactly what caused the overdose, although the sleeping pills were a factor.

"Her son didn't know what he was taking,” she said. “It could have been laced with fentanyl. We don't know."

According to Stefanson, from January to December of this year, the Howe Sound region saw 111 overdoses, often involving a mixture of alcohol and other substances. The Whistler newspaper the Pique reported in October that 23 overdose deaths had occurred in the North Shore/Coast Garibaldi region this year.

The B.C. Coroner Service has reported that 755 drug overdose deaths have occurred in B.C. this year. Many of these individuals were recreational users.

Although fentanyl has been cut into opiates like heroin and Oxycontin, it has also shown up in party drugs like cocaine.

"It's important to recognize that the drugs out there are really, really dangerous," said Barb McLintock, a coroner with the B.C. Coroners Service.

McLintock said that people need to be aware of the risks involved with drug use during the holiday season. She also stressed the need for drug use to never be a solo experience.

Jennifer Janson echoed this message.

"If you're going to try something, don't do it alone. Marty died alone,” she said.

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