5 Tips for Talking to Your Kids about Opioid Misuse

Approximately 2 million people in the United States misuse opioids. The opioid epidemic affects people from nearly every background, income status and age group, including kids and teens. Armed with knowledge and awareness, kids and teens will be better prepared for knowing how to protect themselves and others from misuse and addiction.

“I never thought that opioids would steal my daughter,” Dani Tillman, Brittany’s mom and Executive Director at Ridge House. “I never thought that she’d call me asking for help.”
Watch her story here.

As a parent, you’re a powerful force in guiding your child. Although opioid misuse may be a scary topic, it’s essential to talk with your child in an open, honest and supportive way. Here are a few tips on how to start this potentially life-saving conversation.

  1. First, educate yourself on opioid misuse.
    What are opioids? How are they misused? How do they affect us? Making sure you’re in the know before talking with your child can help you feel more confident and comfortable. This Behavioral Health NV blog “Opioids: What Are They And How Do They Affect Us?” is a great resource for more information.

  2. Start talking to your child as early as possible. (And, remember, it’s also never too late.)
    Children quickly absorb information and learn from what they see and hear. Start talking with your child at an early age, whenever they can understand medications and what they should be used for. Having the conversation earlier makes it easier to continue the conversation as they age.

    And, if you haven’t talked to your child or teen yet, please know that it’s never too late to start, no matter their age.

  3. Talk about the risks of opioid misuse.
    Talking with your child about such an important topic is difficult and it can be easy for the discussion to start to feel like a lecture. However, using factual information on the risks of misuse is a good way to keep the conversation open and honest.
    1. It doesn’t take long or very much to become addicted.
      Opioids are incredibly addictive, and when misused, a psychological addiction can occur within a few days. A physical dependence can develop within a matter of weeks.
    1. Opioid misuse can cause harmful health effects and even death.
      When opioids are misused, they can have harmful health effects such as, slowed breathing, confusion, constipation and nausea. Slowed breathing decreases the amount of oxygen delivered to the brain and vital organs, which can cause death.
    1. The risk of overdose and death increases if you combine opioids with alcohol or other medications.
    1. The side effects of opioid withdrawal can be severe.
      People addicted to opioids who stop using them can experience side effects such as cold flashes, severe cravings, muscle and bone pain, sleep issues, sweating, blurred vision, vomiting and diarrhea, and others.

Read more about the risks on drugabuse.gov.

  1. Got the conversation started? Great. Now, keep it going.
    If you’ve talked with your child about opioid misuse and the risks, congratulations! You’re on the right track. Now, keep the conversation going by talking regularly and reinforcing what’s safe and what’s not. Plus, having regular talks allows your child opportunities to ask questions and feel heard.

    Life gets busy and it’s not easy having multiple conversations, but it’s important to keep talking with your child as they grow. They’re facing new challenges all the time, so your guidance is important.

  2. Create an exit plan together.

Helping your child or teen know how to deal with peer pressure and effectively steer clear of challenging situations is a key strategy. If your child or teen is offered prescription drugs by a friend, suggest they text a code word to you or a family member as a good way to signify they need help.

Helping them come up with an “exit plan” will help them be prepared and safe.

Further Reading and Resources:

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