We as parents already know about the raging drug epidemic happening in our communities, so let’s make sure we start “at home” to make all medications in the safe and put away from your kids, teens, and young adults. Yes, parents, it needs to start with you…
Guest Article By Christine H.
Deaths caused by prescription pain medication overdose are skyrocketing. Between 2000 and 2015, most areas in North America saw opioid deaths quadruple. It’s at a point where it’s being called a public health crisis. But however bad a situation regarding addiction is… it’s always hard to imagine that it has anything to do with us or our family.
The truth is that opioid addiction is something that affects people at every age, from every walk of life. It’s easy to hide, so for the most part, people who find out that their children are struggling with opioid addiction are completely floored and surprised. Because these pain medications are often originally prescribed by a doctor, it’s hard to know where the line is between use and abuse.
So, in the name of prevention and education, here are some important facts that every parent should know about the opioid epidemic.
1: Opioids are some of the most addictive substances we know of
Opiates and opioids are substances derived from the poppy plant, like opium of historical significance, or morphine that we use in hospitals today. Opioids are used to treat pain, and they’re often prescribed for sports injuries, recovery from surgery, and chronic pain conditions.
Some of the most commonly prescribed opiates are OxyContin®, Percocet®, Codeine, Demerol®, and Methadone®. One of the things that make opiates so addictive is that the body quickly builds a tolerance to them, which means that you’ll need more and more of the substance in order to get the same effects. Following closely on the heels of tolerance is dependence, where someone’s body actually needs the substance in order to simply feel normal. At this point, it’s really hard to distinguish when someone needs pain management, and when they’re addicted. For this reason, opiates need to be closely monitored by a doctor to ensure that the medication is doing what it needs to do without being abused.
2: The most common street opioid is heroin?
In our minds, there’s a big leap between using more pills than the doctor prescribed, and going out to purchase a street drug like heroin. However, once addiction takes control and someone’s supply of prescription pain medications is cut off, it’s not uncommon for people to turn to a different, accessible form of the substance. Often, this can get really scary because the dosage of street heroin isn’t as carefully monitored (of course) and it can be very easy for someone to mismanage it.
However, it’s important to remember that as scary as this transition is, prescription opioids can be just as dangerous. In fact, in Utah, twice as many people die from prescription opioids as from heroin.
3: Addiction isn’t the end
If you think that someone you love is at risk of opioid addiction, it can be hard to deal with. It’s difficult to know how to confront and handle the problem effectively. This is real and scary. However, addiction is not the end. If you worry that someone you love is struggling with opioid addiction, learn to recognize the signs, and work to remove the stigma. Let them know that you care and they’re not alone, and encourage them to seek professional treatment.
In addition to professional treatment for addiction, an important resource is Naloxone. If someone is taking opioids, they could be at risk of an overdose. Naloxone is a safe medication that counters the effects of an overdose long enough for professional help to arrive. Educate yourself about it, and if you live in an area where laymen can safely purchase and carry it, then have a kit on hand.
What Can You Do?
- Talk honestly with your children about substance abuse, including alcohol, drugs, and prescription medication. And start the conversation early! As this article states, some state drug education programs are starting as early as Kindergarten because forewarned students are forearmed. Educate yourself about addiction, and open up the conversation to understand your child’s concerns and questions. Avoid using scare tactics and exaggerations. Numerous studies have found that the most effective drug education is in honest conversation, not in facts and figures, or even dramatically terrifying stories.
- There are alternative pain treatment methods. Neither you nor your children have to take opioids. If your doctor prescribes them for someone in your family, talk to them about it and ask for alternative treatment. According to the CDC, safer options are available, and often, they can be more effective in managing pain. Be savvy about any medications that your family is taking. Read the labels and understand the side effects and risks.
- Keep all of your medications in a safe place, in child-proof containers. Monitor them closely, and don’t share medications with family members that they’re not prescribed for. For example, never use grandma’s old Lortab® in order to treat one of your kid’s toothaches, however severe.
- Speaking of old Lortab®, always safely dispose of medication when you don’t need it anymore or it expires. Pain medication isn’t like antibiotics; you don’t need to take the whole prescribed amount. Take leftover medication to any pharmacy, and they can take care of it for you.
- Remember that even when you take opioids as prescribed, there are still dangers. Be alert to the possible problems, and don’t dismiss concerns as they crop up.
Article was written by Author, Christine H.