'I didn't see it coming': Two daughters dead. Same cause
THE tragic deaths of two sisters who were addicted to prescription drugs and died five years apart before their 30th birthdays should serve as a warning to others, their mother says.
New South Wales Central Coast woman Jennifer McEwan, now 63, will this year spend yet another Christmas without her daughters.
It's been seven years since Ms McEwan watched her middle child, Jodie Crick, 28, slip away in a hospital bed after a gut-wrenching family decision was made to switch off her life support. Ms Crick had been declared brain dead after accidentally overdosing on prescription drugs in her Queensland home.
Ms McEwan told news.com.au that Ms Crick had bought morphine patches "off the street" and dissolved them in vinegar to "bring out the drug".
Ms McEwan said her daughter had called the ambulance for her boyfriend who had allegedly overdosed on the toxic concoction. But by the time paramedics arrived at the Mackay address, about 950 kilometres north of Brisbane, Ms Crick was also unconscious. She died in hospital a few days later.
"I do think it was accidental ... she didn't mean to take her own life," Ms McEwan said.
"It was a terrible three days, just hoping she'd come out of a coma but she never did.
"The family was there: just me, her father and my twin sister."
Ms Crick had been battling depression for several years prior to her death.
"Jodie had become very addicted to drugs," her mother said.
"She was on Xanax, a really heavy one, and morphine patches."
On one occasion, police reportedly found needles, prescription drugs and prescriptions during a raid on Ms Crick's home, according to her mother.
"Some had been prescribed to her but she had bought a lot on the streets.
"I didn't know that was part of her life until then.
"I was quite surprised because she never liked needles growing up. It was a shock."
As Ms Crick's addiction escalated, so too did her run-ins with the law, and on one occasion it even landed her behind bars.
"She stole a prescription pad from Mackay Hospital and was writing her own scripts," Ms McEwan said.
"She did six months in Emu Plains jail for that."
But the stint in prison didn't help to rehabilitate Ms Crick and she soon starting using drugs again upon release. It was a move that would end her life.
"Jodie wasn't even the first of my daughters to die but I still didn't see it coming," Ms McEwan said.
Ms Crick's untimely death came just five years after her 29-year-old sister Rachel Salhani took her own life following a long battle with "a heavy addiction" to prescription drugs. It was a sequence of tragic events which Ms McEwan said "shocked" the family to its core.
"She'd use anything," Ms McEwan said of her eldest daughter Rachel.
"Morphine, speed, whatever she could get her hands on."
Ms Salhani had turned to petty crime, including shop lifting, to support her habit. She lost custody of her three young children as a result. It ultimately became too much, Her body was found inside her Agnes Waters home, in QLD on July 21, 2005.
"Her death had a huge affect on Jodie, it was a big thing for her to go through, and had to do with Jodie's heavier drug use," Ms McEwan said.
"I'm also very disappointed with Rachel and the way she had the drugs in front of Jodie as I think that's what started her.
"Jodie had a good job at the medical centre in Agnes Water, she was receptionist there before Rachel came up.
"I do blame Rachel a little bit for all that ... she shouldn't have done that."
It's a far cry from how life was for the family before addiction took hold of the girls' lives. The sisters were "like chalk and cheese" and had "a good upbringing", according to their mother.
"As young girls they were both popular at school," Ms McEwan said.
"We would go camping and to the beach a lot, they loved that.
"I always had them well dressed they loved having friends stay over."
Ms McEwan said her daughters were "fun loving" people who "loved sitting around and talking and laughing".
"I loved them a lot," she said.
"It was just such a tragedy what happened to them and I want future generations to know about it so they don't go down the same path."
A Facebook page dedicated to Ms Crick's memory lovingly describes her as "a wild child".
"Smart, funny, brave, kind, humble, and a good friend," the tribute reads.
"You didn't have to know her very well to know that she was beautiful inside and out."
It's an ending that many Australians, with different names but similar stories to Ms Crick and her sister, are becoming increasingly familiar with.
A report released this week by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) revealed the misuse of powerful prescription medications for non-medical reasons is rising and now accounts for more drug-induced deaths than illegal drugs.
"Over the past decade, there has been a substantial rise in the number of deaths involving a prescription drug, with drug-induced deaths more likely to be due to prescription drugs than illegal drugs," AIHW spokesperson Matthew James said.
The analysis looked at two main types of prescription drugs: opioid analgesics (which include morphine, codeine and tramadol), and benzodiazepines - prescribed to improve sleep and treat stress.
One million Australians misused pharmaceuticals in the previous 12 months, the analysis showed.
According to the report, the number of people older than 14 to have misused a pharmaceutical drug in 2016 was at 4.8 per cent, up from 3.7 per cent in 2007. Use of pharmaceuticals for non-medical reasons in 2015-16 was higher than all illegal drugs, except cannabis (10.4 per cent), and more people sought treatment for opioid painkillers compared to a decade ago, increasing from 56 per cent in 2006-07 to 73 per cent in 2015-16.
Benzodiazepines were the most common single drug type identified among the 1,808 drug induced deaths, accounting for 663 deaths in 2016.
Prescription painkillers such as oxycodone, morphine and codeine accounted for 550 of the drug induced deaths.
Earlier this year, the National Drug Strategy Household Survey showed that indigenous Australians were more than twice as likely to have recently used a pharmaceutical for non-medical purposes than non-indigenous Australians. The survey also found people living in remote areas were almost twice as likely as those living in major cities to have recently used a pharmaceutical for non- medical purposes.
"This finding also held true for Australians living in the most disadvantaged socio-economic areas, with six per cent having recently misused pharmaceuticals compared with 4.2 per cent of those in the most advantaged areas," Mr James said.
Recent users of pharmaceuticals for non-medical purposes were also more likely than those who had not misused pharmaceuticals to experience mental illness, chronic pain and experience high or very high levels of psychological distress, according to the report.