Signature Ad

Signature - McCullough

Signature/Redhead & Chef


B-Box - HAGI

Click here to see more
Community Calendar
Click here for full listings.
It's been suggested any funds generated from sales of city park assets be put back into parks operations. Do you support the the idea?

Total Votes: 37
View Results Past Polls
User Submitted Photo Gallery
Submit Your Own Photos
2012-01-19 at 11:53

Former drug abuser now helps youth shed their own addictions

By Jeff Labine,
PregnantStay alcohol free, eat healthy, attend prenatal classes & see your healthcare

Robert Sugarhead’s shirt comes complete with a buttoned-up collar. 

“I’m wearing a tie and trying to be professional,” the Fort Hope First Nation’s resident says, with the tie loosely around his neck, featuring a full Windsor knot and perfectly placed dimple. It’s a sure sign he takes time and care with his professional attire. 

Just 88 days ago, Sugarhead didn’t bother with ties. Making sure he appeared professional took a backseat to his then top priority – feeding his prescription drug addiction.

“I use to take anything just to get a fix,” he says, recalling the days not too long ago when the drug dependency ran his life. “It was very small here at first. It was Percocet first.”

The Percocet that once did the trick couldn’t satisfy the addiction anymore.

“I turned to OxyContin when I was older … People were looking to find a bigger high and I was one of those guys.”

Sugarhead says drug use was a way to deal with boredom, and didn’t realize he was using the narcotics to help deal with pain. All his previous attempts to drop his addiction ended in relapse.

The problem became so serious that Sugarhead found himself resorting to theft to help pay for his habits.

But crime is not part of his life anymore.

Today Sugarhead is a role model, a youth outreach worker for his community’s school and one of the success stories from Fort Hope First Nation’s homegrown detox program. 

“It was a good choice for me because I was heading down the wrong way,” he says.

"In Fort Hope, there was no place to deal with your problems. Now there is. This detox thing came into the community and I was on the list and I was on the bottom. By some chance I was bumped up.”

And as a youth outreach worker, his goal is to help students with their own drug dependency problems.

Fort Hope’s detox program was created after the community declared a state of emergency in 2011.

The First Nation hoped they could bring more attention to the community’s prescription drug problems by calling the state of emergency. Since then, Health Canada has provided the community with Suboxone, which helps people addicted to opiates deal with the withdrawal symptoms.

But Suboxone alone can’t cure the community of its problems. The First Nation lacked a facility that could help deal with the mental health aspects of drug addiction.

That problem led Fort Hope to create a solution in August 2011 – a detox clinic that could provide local addicts with the services they needed.

Operating inside a converted home, the clinic started with four community members per session. Demand was too much for the original four, so the clinic expanded to allow 10 people to receive treatment.

There are now plans to expand, and bring the clinic’s capacity to 20.

Elizabeth Atlookan, health manager at Fort Hope, says the program’s waiting list is huge.

The community was supportive of the clinic, but admits that Fort Hope needs more than a house-turned-detox clinic snuff out to its prescription drug use epidemic.

“A lot of members in our community are using OxyContin,” Atlookan says.

“It’s really crippled our community. We renovated this house, but we are going to outgrow it very quickly. We have seen improvements. People have gone back to work and taken care of families.”

She says many turn to drugs to deal with pain, and adds that it isn’t an uncommon problem in remote First Nation communities in the North.

When Health Canada arrived to give Suboxone, she says federal health regulations wouldn’t allow the nurses to administer the drug at the clinic.

Like many social problems, money was also a hurdle in the community’s efforts to create a solution.

“We’re talking about big expenses here,” she says.

“We’re talking probably a lot of money to really fully meet the epidemic proportion of this prescription drug abuse in the North. We’re hoping Health Canada will work with us. Right now they have put in an interim funding for a nurse and we’re going with that. Hopefully, with all the media attention we will get all the help we need.”



Click here to submit a letter to the editor.

Click here to report a typo or error

Banner/Vector Construction


We've improved our comment system.
jimmyboy says:
Great news for "Robert Sugarhead"...hopefully he can inspire others to follow his lead...and maybe he should get into counselling as a career.?
1/19/2012 12:43:13 PM
blue says:
Robert you should be very proud of yourself. Keep up the good work and maybe one day we will be rid of drug addiction completely
1/19/2012 1:51:10 PM
concerned_citizen says:
Congratulations to Robert Sugarhead and all other individuals who are working hard to make a difference in Fort Hope. I hope Robert continues along his path to recovery and hope he knows how valuable a role he can play in changing the lives of others through staying clean and offering his support to those who are struggling.
1/19/2012 1:51:21 PM
chbaker says:
Mr. Sugarhead sets an awesome example I think. A little strength and willpower goes a long way. Well done.

Now, wouldn't it be nice if the big pharmaceutical companies that profited billions of dollars from the sale and production of their drugs that destroy communities; pitched in a little to help the burden on the already struggling taxpayers?
1/19/2012 6:23:30 PM
tbaygal27 says:
Robert, you are an inspiration! I hope you are able to share your experiences to help many others
1/19/2012 9:13:57 PM
anvil of crom says:
right on robert !!!! good job, not easy , i hope you read the good comments here.
1/19/2012 11:20:32 PM
MJLS1303 says:
i am soo proud of my father, he is a great man, and a wonderful father, he loves all his children. he is my inspiration, my great role model, a person who i look up to as a father. im gonna be a father soon myself, and im happy to know that he's doing what has to be done, thank you all for supporting my father, this really means a lot to me....... god bless you all!!
1/19/2012 11:31:19 PM
hardrawkin says:
The problem really is the Drug companies.

These drugs are over prescribed without making the public aware of their harmful side effects and addictive nature.

Truth is it a multi billion dollar business and will be hard to shut down.

This young man should be proud of himself but unfortunately he is only treating the symptoms not solving the problem.
1/20/2012 6:59:27 AM
Delbert Grady says:
Quite possibly the worst comment here ever!

Blaming the drug companys for somebody's poor choice to abuse their products is just ridiculous.

Do you blame pencil manufacturers because somebody makes a spelling error? Do you blame an automobile manufacturer when somebody speeds or drives impaired?

The person is the sole cause of drug abuse. If you dont abuse them, you wont have a problem.

My car can do 145 mph, that doesnt mean I speed around at those speeds. The law is against me, the surrounding conditions dont responsibly allow for it, etc..

its certainy nobodys fault but mine if I choose to not use my car properly, just like its not the drug companys fault if someone abuses their products either.

It takes a person to abuse drugs and it takes a real person not to. The gentleman in this story saw his way out and made the appropriate decisions to corrrect himself.

He deserves a big kudos for his personal responsibility, not a lame excuse to blame the drug companys.
1/20/2012 1:45:40 PM
ALK says:
Amazing job Robert and best of luck with your recovery. It's a wonderful thing to help your community and hopefully it will inspire more to help as well!
1/20/2012 9:59:31 AM
Rodger Dodger says:
It is a fantastic start. I would love an update story one year from today. see where Mr. Sugarhead is 453 days sober. Now that you are clean and sober there are to limits to what you can achieve. Look forward to it!!!
1/20/2012 10:42:24 AM
Mazda323 says:
Good for you Robert! Congratulations are certainly in order, you have done one of the hardest things there is to do: Admit a problem and deal with it in a healthy way. Hats off to you!
1/20/2012 2:20:53 PM
Fluffy says:
Excellent job! Keep at it.
1/20/2012 8:22:33 PM
hardrawkin says:
Poor Delbert,
Truth is there are a lot of people taking these prescribed medications on the good old advice from their family GP. All happy and walking around like Zombies.
Big problem.
They are all law biding and drive cars an'all.
I hope you are not one of them.
1/20/2012 10:09:38 PM
Delbert Grady says:
Nobody is forcing anyone to take drugs.

An adult has the responsibility to look after themselves. To know the side effects, the front effects, and the long term effects.

Just because a doctor prescribed a pain killer doesnt mean you have to abuse it. The doctor isnt forcing you to take it. In fact the doctor is probably quite reluctant to issue the script in the first place. Its probably only handed out after some good begging and a long list of excuses why the patient thinks he requires it.

Should we believe the doctor? or the addict? I'll take doctor.

Youre just perpetuating that "not responsible" garbage further cheapening this gentleman's admirable accomplishment.

He didnt blame somebody else. He got smart and realized he controls his own body and developed the fortitude to master his own self.

Thats a real good, strong person that does that and I sincerely congratulate him.

The sooner people like you stop excusing addicts, the sooner you'll help them the most.
1/21/2012 3:08:46 PM
anvil of crom says:
i could not agree more!
1/23/2012 9:08:55 PM
Comments for this story are semi-moderated. Read our comment guideline.

Add a new comment.
You must log in to add comments.
Create a new account
Forgot password?
Log In