Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Speaking to kids about drugs has become critical


Drug education and prevention work; it's proven effective. Parents' or caregivers' early conversations with their kids make a real difference. Amid the opioid epidemic, these conversations have become critical.

Fentanyl and fentanyl analogs are found in most drugs and are even made to look like prescription pain medication. There is a real risk of deadly overdose. Social media platforms provide easy access to illegal drugs.

Online drug dealers target young people because of the frequency they use social media. Anyone buying drugs online will never know what they are getting. Over the past 15 years, over 17,500 Washington residents have died from a drug overdose. Approximately 68% of those deaths involved opioids. Since 2019, opioid-related deaths have nearly doubled.

Prevention and education resources are critical, such as The Parent’s Guide to Fentanyl and local resources and organizations. Yet, it begins with parents and caregivers speaking with their kids. Consider some of the following tips:

  • Keep conversations frequent and small, rather than one big talk; this helps to build strong communication and trust. These conversations should fit into everyday life, and it's never too late to start.
  • Make your views and rules about legal substances clear; set boundaries. They must have an understanding of the consequences.
  • Be a reliable source of factual information; search out the answers together and find accurate data.
  • Ask them what they know about fentanyl, listen to their opinions, and answer their questions. The conversation goes both ways. Avoid lecturing, threatening, or using scare tactics.
  • Be prepared to share personal experiences. Help them prepare to manage peer pressure, rehearse scenarios and practice what to say when faced with it.
  • Teach them about online safety and using social media safely, such as not giving out personal information.

These talks aim to build trust and a safe environment where youth can come to their parents at any time and speak about the things they are experiencing.

It's never too late to start having these talks. When youth and teens know the dangers, they begin making informed decisions and avoiding dangerous situations. There are different risks now with recreational drug use, and young people must understand these risks.

Marcel Gemme has been helping people struggling with substance use for over 20 years, most recently with the creation of SUPE: Substance Use Prevention Education. His work focuses on a threefold approach: education, prevention, and rehabilitation.


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