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The opioid epidemic has become so problematic, the President of the United States has declared it a national health emergency. Although this public outcry and plans for stricter enforcement can help combat this growing issue, you can take matters into your own hands by communicating with your children about the dangers.

communicate with your children

Start the Conversation Early

Substance abuse can impact an entire family, including the person with the problem. According to the Nation Institute on Drug Abuse, opioid use seems to be highest among ages 18 to 25. Of the people using, many started as young teens. Although you may think your child is too young to become involved with drugs, you should probably begin the talk as early as preschool. You can broach this carefully when your children are given vitamins. Explain that while these are taken to ensure a healthy immune system, if you take too many, they can prove harmful.

This begins the precarious lesson that medicine can help, but it also comes with risks when taken in the wrong dosages. As your children grow, you can explain the importance of following the doctor’s orders when prescribed medication for pain or sickness. Once your child enters their teenage years, you can discuss drugs and what your teen has been taught about them. They may have also had firsthand communication about drugs with their peers.

Explain Appropriate Treatment Methods for Addressing Pain

In some instances, methods to treat pain may involve prescriptive opioids, especially in cases of cancer, broken bones or other serious conditions. You can discuss with your teen to follow physician’s orders or those on the medication bottle. If the medication is for someone else, they should never take pills not meant for them. Besides being illegal, taking medication meant for others can lead to addiction. If you know someone with a substance abuse problem, you need to get them in an addiction recovery program immediately. Living in a drug and alcohol-free environment is one of many community benefits for sober living. If a family member or loved one has a problem, they may be able to thrive better with their sobriety with a cohesive network of support staff and members who are engaged in the recovery process.

Discuss the Reasons Behind Drug Abuse

You may want to sugar coat your conversation to protect your teens from the brutalities that can enfold in the world today. But downplaying drug abuse may make it seem not quite so serious. Substance abuse is dangerous, and you need to be open with the reasons behind the use of drugs. Explain that although they can give you a good high, that feeling is going to eventually come to a crashing end. No amount of not fitting in with a popular group or anxiety caused by excessive homework will prove beneficial when they take drugs. Because opioids can lower a person’s inhibitions, they may lose control of a situation. Speaking about both the pleasant and dangerous side effects gives your teen a true reality check.

Keep the Doors of Communication Open

There’s going to be a number of instances where your teen is going to be introduced to new situations during their adolescence. Although you may not want to hear what they’re being exposed to, it’s important that you keep the doors of communication open.

Your child is going to need a place where they can feel comfortable discussing sex, drugs and disputes with friends. While you may be uncomfortable at times, it’s best that they come to you for sound advice. Instead of offering one word answers, ask them questions, especially about their feelings over a particular situation.

Share the Serious Consequences

There are consequences to substance abuse, and you need to share them with your teen. You can start by laying down household rules if they ever experiment with opioids. This could include the loss of phone and driving privileges. You can also discuss the serious ramifications such as fines, jail or injuring innocent victims. For teens with opioid addiction, they may not be able to get into college and have to enter a substance abuse program to kick the habit. For others opioid abuse can prove fatal.

As a parent, you may think that your teen won’t abuse opioids. But with the problem facing epidemic proportions, you don’t want to take any chances. Educating your teen about the risks and consequences can open their eyes to the problem and make the drug all the more unappealing to them.