Past Courage to Come Back award winner Langley's Andy Bhatti is organizing a charity autograph signing

Langley survivor shines spotlight on opiate addiction

Andy Bhatti is organizing a charity slo-pitch game and autograph session Saturday in Abbotsford, featuring former MLB star Jose Canseco.

Andy Bhatti will have a heavy hitter on his side Saturday in Abbotsford, in his efforts to raise awareness about opiate addiction.

The Strike Out Opiate Addiction charity autograph signing, home run derby, and exhibition slo-pitch games features six-time MLB all-star Jose Canseco.

Free to the public, the fund- and- awareness-raiser starts at 10 a.m. and runs until 3 p.m. at Abbotsford’s Exhibition Park, 32470 Haida Drive.

Also lending their support are actress/model Leila Knight, retired NHLer and former Vancouver Canuck defenceman Dave Babych, and UFC fighter Jason Day.

The goal is to raise funds for, and awareness about, an issue has reached B.C. and beyond according to Bhatti, who noted that opiate addiction in Vancouver and across Canada has increased by more than “200 per cent over the past three years.”

“Canada is the world’s second-largest per capita consumer of opiates, and the fallout is being felt across the country,” said Bhatti, a Langley resident and intervention and addictions counsellor.

Opiates are pharmaceutical form of heroin, Bhatti added.

“Once you have been doing the drug for a few weeks your body will build immunity to the drug,” Bhatti said. “And fentanyl has now hit our streets and is a highly powerful synthetic opiate that’s more powerful then morphine and heroin.”

Doctors prescribe forms of fentanyl, Oxycontin, and hydromorphine to help patients manage the pain, but these drugs have a sinister side, Bhatti said.

“The doctor doesn’t tell you, if you stay on this medication for five months, there is only one way to come off: Suboxone or methadone,” Bhatti opined.

Once their prescriptions end, patients using these highly addictive opiates are forced to get their fix through illegal sources, Bhatti said. “Well, all the drugs on the street are fentanyl or W-18 [a powerful opioid 100 times stronger than fentanyl], so people are dropping left, right, and centre, and dying.”

Bhatti continued, “These people need an intervention. Opiates will kill you. Heroin, fentanyl, hydromorphine will kill your child.”

“Our goal on April 2nd is to raise awareness on opiate addiction. It doesn’t just affect the addict, it also affects families, communities, baseball teams, and friendships.”

The recipient of the 2015 Courage to Come award in the addictions category, Bhatti was sexually abused by a former Big Brother volunteer and as a result fell into a dark tunnel of drug addiction, homelessness, and crime.

The abuse pushed him into an endless loop of drug abuse and crime. To feed his heroin addiction, Bhatti became a career criminal. All the while he lived on the street, sleeping in cars and hotel rooms, or wherever he could find warmth. He smoked heroin for the last time on Sept. 26, 2006, and since then has been working hard to turn his life around.

Over the past few years, Bhatti has directed 100 per cent of his efforts to helping others.

He is now a certified substance abuse support worker and recovery coach and the founder of Survivors Support Survivors, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and resources for survivors, both men and women, of childhood victimization.

Proceeds from Saturday’s event will go to TWC Treatment Centre, and Bhatti’s charity, Survivors Supporting Survivors.

“Our charity will use money that is raised and donated, to pay for any survivors’ therapy of sexual abuse,” Bhatti said.

Sexual abuse survivors who are put on opiates  don’t ever want to come off, Bhatti said, because “it’s the best pain-blocker, to not let them think about what happened to them as a child.”

Canseco will be playing slo-pitch, hitting in the home-run derby and signing autographs for the cause.

For more about Bhatti, visit his website by clicking here.

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