How to talk to children about opioids?
Even if you don’t suspect your child is using opioids, it is important to have clear, consistent, and age-appropriate conversations with them about the dangers of using opioids or other substances. It is important to discuss:
Safe space: Before any conversation about substances can happen, it is essential for parents and caregivers to establish a trusting relationship. Even though it can be difficult for people to sacrifice enforcement for honesty, it is important that youth go to a trusting adult for any situations involving substances. Since every family, child, and culture is different, the safe space approach can vary. However, finding what will work for your family will help reach a common ground on a valuable conversation about substance use.
Peer pressure: Since peer pressure and social access are important factors for substance misuse, it is important to fully prepare youth for these situations. Parents and caregivers should approach the conversation honestly about the reality of peer pressure and prevalence of substance use among youth. It could be really helpful to talk through or role play different peer pressure situations, and allow youth to come up with ways to respond.
Fentanyl: Even though opioids are only one substance, many other substances could contain a lethal dose of fentanyl. Even though this can be a scary topic for families to discuss, it is important youth are educated on the risks of substance use. Start the conversation with discussing what fentanyl is, why it is dangerous, and explaining that using any substance that was not prescribed to them could contain fentanyl.
Overdose: One of the most important topics to go over is how to identify and respond to an overdose. The minutes after an overdose are extremely important for saving a life. Parents and caregivers should go over the signs of an overdose and how to respond. Whether they are a bystander or involved with the substance use situation, people should call 911 when someone starts to overdose.