Talk to Your Kids
Half of the drug overdoses in the United States are a result of opioids. Having conversations about opioids with your kids is one way you can make an impact in the opioid crisis today.
Start the Conversation Early
Parents can start as early as preschool when it comes to talking about medication. A great way of introducing the topic is if your child takes vitamins. Explain that vitamins are medicine, too; while they are good for you and help you grow, they can also be harmful if you take too many.
The key is helping your children understand that medicine can be useful, but it can also be harmful if taken the wrong way. If you take medication or vitamins yourself, there is a good chance your child watched you take them. Being transparent about your usage reminds children that medications are taken for a specific reason, not for fun.
Be Their Advocate
For many children, their first experience with opioids begins after a dental procedure, a broken bone, or other serious injury. Some health care providers prescribe opioids as a standard method for pain management. While opioid medications may be effective for treating pain in the short-term, they have an extremely high tendency for addiction and do nothing to address the underlying cause of pain. Research has shown that opioids are no better than over-the-counter medications. As your child’s advocate, you can inform the dentist of health care provider that you prefer an alternative treatment for pain management.
If opioids are the best course of treatment, prescribing guidelines from the Bree Collaborative indicate that youth under 20 should not be prescribed more than a three-day supply of opioids (less than 10 pills).
Encourage Conversation Often
Talking about proper use of medication should be ongoing as your child gets older. As a parent, your child looks to you for help and guidance in working out problems and in making decisions, including the decision not to use drugs. By engaging them in conversation, you are creating a safe space for them to talk to you about issues they come across throughout their adolescence. It’s important to discuss why people abuse drugs and alternative ways to cope with those impending issues. Remind your child that they have a support system in their friends and family.
Be honest about current or past drug use in the family.
Deciding whether to tell your child about your past drug use is a personal decision. However, your experiences and the lessons you’ve learned can better equip you to teach others. Your honesty encourages your child to also be open and honest about their own curiosities and possible experimentation with drugs. Talking about your experiences can build the foundation for ongoing conversations around this topic. You can speak the truth about addiction because you’ve survived it.
If there is a family member or close friend who is actively using, it’s important to explain this person’s struggles to your child in an age-appropriate way. Share what you’re doing to get that individual the help they need to make healthier choices. Consider reaching out to a counselor, your community church, or a group like Alateen or Al-Anon. This allows your child to find a space to share feelings about a friend or family member’s use.
Monitor Opioid Prescriptions Carefully
It’s important to tell children and adolescents that prescribed pain medications are appropriate to take under the supervision of a health care provider. If you have agreed for your child to take opioids, it’s important to discuss the risks of misuse and be clear they should not be shared with anyone else. Supervise the dispensing of the medication by keeping count of the number of pills in the bottle to ensure they are being taken as prescribed. Monitor your child’s level of pain and be sure to look for signs of dependence.
Medications should be kept in a safe place where they cannot be accessed by other family members or friends. And it’s always important to dispose of any unused medication at your local MED-Project disposal kiosk.