Even taken for short periods of time, opiates can put you or your child at risk for dependence, so it’s important to be informed. If your child is prescribed an opiate, be sure you control the medicine, and monitor dosages and refills.
Many of the victims of the opiate epidemic are young. In 2014, for instance, nonmedical use of prescription opioids was highest among adults between the ages of 18 and 25, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Safeguard & Dispose of Your Medications. Many young people begin experimenting with opiates by simply looking through the household’s medicine cabinet. Do you keep previously prescribed opiates/painkillers around ‘just in case’? These are putting you and your children at risk. Would you know if some pills are missing? Take prescription medicine out of the medicine cabinet and secure them in a place only you know about. If possible, keep all medicines, both prescription and over-the-counter, in a safe place, such as a locked cabinet your child cannot access.
Safely disposing of expired or unused medicine is crucial to your household, and decreases the opportunity for your kids (or their friends) to abuse your medicine.
You can do this safely by participating in a safe drug disposal program – either a drug take-back day, an ongoing program in your community, a drug deactivation bag, or a drug mail-back program. To find a take-back location or event near you, visit the American Medicine Chest Challenge.
Educate Yourself and Your Family. If you aren’t sure of a risk associated with any medication – ASK. Get informed. Physicians are typically focused on symptom relief, and may not offer this information unless prompted. Know all the potentially dangerous side effects and risk of dependence before taking medication.
Talk to your kids about the risks of opiate abuse. Ask them if they are exposed to opiates – in any form – and if they have questions or concerns. Kids who learn about the dangers of drug use early and often are much less likely to develop a substance use disorder than those who do not receive these critical messages at home.
Give your child a chance to express their concerns and feelings. They may have been hoping for a chance to ask questions or check in about something troubling. Opening an equal, active dialogue will increase the chances that your child will feel comfortable being honest with you in the future.
Plan Ahead. Having a plan with your kids is essential. Talk to them about what they can do if someone offers them a substance. Educate them on the fact that even prescribed medication carries great risk, as kids sometimes hear ‘it’s OK, it was prescribed by a doctor’. Help your child practice saying “no” in different ways. Let them know they can call or text you from any situation that makes them uncomfortable. When they go out to places where substances may be present, encourage them to bring a safe friend they can count on, help them devise an exit strategy, and know who is around your kids.
Set a Positive Example. Believe it or not, your kids are paying attention to your choices. Look at your own alcohol and drug use and ask yourself if you are setting a good example. If you’ve committed to avoiding substances, talk about your decision with your kids. Even if you aren’t substance-free, talk about responsible drug and alcohol use and ways you keep yourself safe from the risk of abuse. Be honest and open with your kids, and let them know they can talk to you about any questions or concerns without fear of judgment or punishment. Setting a positive example and providing support and encouragement to make safe choices goes a long way to help your children avoid a substance use disorder.