Things Parents Can Do to Fight Addiction
As addiction to opioids is ravaging our country, parents and community groups continue to ask us what they can do to prevent addiction in their families and community. In response to these questions, we’ve developed a list of things you can do to help prevent and/or stop addiction, especially among adolescents.
Talk to your kids about the dangers of using drugs – particularly opioids like prescription pain relievers, such as OxyContin or Vicodin, and heroin. Having clear, honest conversations with your children that are appropriate to their age is the best way to let them know the risks of using drugs and why some people, especially young people, are particularly vulnerable to addiction. Without your guidance, many teens are simply unaware of the ways in which drugs have a uniquely dangerous effect on kids. They need you to be a trusted source of information. Communication is the key.
As a parent, you want to know what’s going on in your area. Being engaged in your community and talking to your kids about who they’re involved with is a great way to be prepared to step in if they need help. Teens that spend time with other teens that steer clear of drugs are more likely to not use drugs themselves.
Many teens develop addiction after misusing prescription medications – the kinds a parent may keep in the medicine cabinet, doctors may prescribe for a sports injury or dentists may prescribe for a tooth extraction. If you or your child has a prescription, especially for a controlled medication, make sure you keep it locked and secure at all times. Proper disposal of unused medications is also very important. Don’t give your teen – or anyone else – the opportunity to access your Xanax or Vicodin. It may lead to addiction.
If your teen has dramatic changes in mood, appearance, academic performance or interest, and friendships, or they smell of marijuana, cigarettes or alcohol, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Many parents have a hard time tackling the issue of drug use without assistance, and a therapist or doctor may be exactly what your teen needs to help deal with a drug problem. Don’t wait until you see the full consequences of their drug use. Look up trusted therapists and medical professionals in your area and take informed action as quickly as possible.
There are people all over the country struggling with opioid addiction, and probably some in your area. If you see someone overdosing, call an ambulance immediately. If you become aware that your teen is struggling with opioid addiction it may be best to keep naloxone – the opioid reversal drug – on hand. Even if your teen isn’t using drugs like heroin, you may consider having naloxone available. You want to be able to revive someone if you need to and to help that person get treatment. Naloxone saves lives.
While addiction is scary, always know you have the power to influence your kids and help them avoid drugs, addiction, or to help them recover, should they need to. Years of research show that, as a parent, you carry the most weight in your teen’s decisions and attitudes about drug use, and you can help your children and this country stop addiction in its tracks.