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Opioids have become a serious problem among teenagers and there are things parents can do to protect their kids.

There is an opioid crisis that we cannot ignore or avoid, but sometimes it is daunting to think of its impact in our own cities and communities. Parents often wonder what they can do to help protect their children from the dangers of opioid and drug abuse. The good news is that parents do have the ability to keep teens from accessing and potentially abusing opioids, especially ones like prescription drugs.

[Related: When Your Kid Has an Addiction]

The Dangers of Opioid Use

A big reason opioid use is dangerous for teens is how they affect the developing brain. The brain can develop all the way through age twenty-four, making it particularly vulnerable to changes and interruptions caused by opioid use. Pathways in our brains are developing that impact our decision-making and abilities. Drug use in younger years can disrupt the development of these pathways, causing problems and making a person more susceptible to addiction in later years.

[Related: How Do Drugs Affect the Brain?]

There are ways parents can help teens avoid these dangers. There are three keys to remember: Ask, Manage, and Talk.

Ask

There are many situations you might encounter where you child could be prescribed drugs. Having wisdom teeth extracted, other surgeries, or sports injuries are just a few of the times when a doctor might prescribe drugs. As a parent, you can ask what other options are available. Are there over-the-counter drugs or combinations that will be just as effective without resorting to prescription opioid? Are there other ways to treat injuries such as compression, elevation, and stretching?

The important thing to remember is that you can ask what all the options are instead of just going straight to prescription opioids.

Manage

There might be times where the best option for your teen is the safe use of prescription drugs. The importance then falls on your management of the drugs. Make sure you are the one in charge of storing the prescription and making sure you child takes it at the appropriate times and in the correct dosage. Also, educate yourself on the prescription drug laws of your state or country and ensure those are being followed. If there are additional drugs left once your child no longer needs them, be sure to dispose of them properly. Check with your local pharmacy to see if they have a drug drop box where you can leave your excess medications, or ask for just half of the prescription to be filled in case you don’t need the entire amount.

Talk

As difficult as it can be to bring up the topics of drug use with your teen, it is vitally important. While they may not seem to be listening, they will catch what you are saying, and if you bring it up regularly, they will get the message. Studies show that teens whose parents talked with them about prescription drug use were 42% less likely to misuse them.

[Related: Boundaries with Teens: Challenges of Raising Teens]

As a parent, you have the power to ask, manage, and talk with your children in order to help protect them from the prescription drug abuse that has become so dangerous. The tools and FLEXTALK.org can make the process simpler than you might think. By being intentional about these things, you can be the helper and protector your child needs.

Talk About It
  1. What is your initial reaction to this topic? What jumped out at you?
  2. How have you seen drugs impact families around you?
  3. What do you think keeps parents from wanting to talk with their kids about drugs of any kind?
  4. Have you ever had a child put on prescription drugs? If so, what was the experience like?
  5. What has kept you from having conversations with your kids about drug abuse?
  6. Do you ever talk about the opioid crisis with your kids? What are some ways you can bring up the subject (or drug abuse generally) in conversation?
  7. Have you talked with your children about drug use? If so, what have those conversations been like? If not, what has kept you from talking about it?
  8. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.
This topic is adapted from the MassDPH YouTube channel. Written content for this topic by Andi Dolinsky-Webb.