Many people think the opioid crisis is not going to affect them.
“They think, ‘Not my kid.’ ‘Not my husband,’ but there are no guarantees against it,” said Anne Constantino, CEO of Horizon Health Services. “No amount of education, no amount of privilege, no amount of opportunity protects somebody from the possibility of this disease happening.”
Constantino said she’s heard parents talk about their kids drinking or smoking marijuana. Some say, “I’d rather they do it in my house,” or “I’d rather know about it.” But she said that kind of experimentation can lead to further drug abuse and addiction, especially for young kids with developing brains.
Jessica Hutchings at Kids Escaping Drugs agreed. While substances like marijuana may not be a “gateway drug,” they can act as a gateway into the drug lifestyle.
“(Addicted young people) say, ‘If I had never met the person I bought my pot from, I never would have met the person I bought my pills from,’” Hutchings said. “‘I never would have met the person who introduced me to heroin.’”
Experts have some other advice, as well:
Look at your genetics. If addiction runs in your family, it doesn’t matter how good your parenting skills are: Your child is at risk. If you see that cycle in your family, be very aware of it and talk to your kids.
Openly communicate. Families know when something’s not right, or when a loved one is not the same. Trust your gut if you think something’s wrong, and act on it.
Monitor your medications. You might not think your child, grandchild, friend or neighbor will go through your medicine cabinet, but it’s a fairly common portal into the world of unprescribed opioid use. Lock up meds, or if you’re no longer using them, dispose of them properly. (See where on page 28.)
Be mindful. If your child has been prescribed pain medication after an injury or surgery, be aware, consider alternative options and if they are used, get kids off of them as soon as possible. “It’s hard for parents to make sure their kids are taken care of when they’re in pain, but sometimes just soothing conversation helps,” said Avi Israel of Save the Michaels.
Be open. Anne Constantino said kids need as much of the truth as they can absorb or understand at their age. She urged families not to keep secrets or lie about addiction.“Kids know what’s going on,” she said. “They know when something’s not right.”
Stay educated. Know the signs and resources available to you.
Be aware of the signs
Here are some tips from Kids Escaping Drugs about prevention and identifying problems early:
- Follow your gut instinct; it’s usually right.
- Monitor your teen’s use of electronic devices.
- Hold your teen accountable for their actions and decisions.
- Don’t implement consequences if you can’t follow through with them.
- Educate yourself about teen substance abuse.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Don’t ever think “not my child.”
- Never confront your teen while they are under the influence, and try to remain calm when you do confront them.