Drug abuse is an epidemic that has taken many lives over the years, and the numbers keep growing. Opioids, in particular, are responsible for more than half of all drug overdoses in the U.S. and have even overtaken automobile accidents as the leading cause of accidental deaths among the adult population. Sadly, this epidemic does not only affect adults, many addicts admit to starting abusing drugs in their pre-teen and teenage years. Therefore, tackling this issue means teaching our children about the dangers of opioid abuse (preferably through story-based learning). Although this is one of the topics parents tend to shy away from, it is important to note that ignoring or denying its existence only increases the dangers linked to this problem.

What are Opioids?

For you to be able to teach young children about the opioid epidemic, it is important to understand what they are and how they work. Opioids are very addictive narcotic drugs which are naturally found in the opium poppy plant and are prescribed by doctors to relieve pain. They are often prescribed to patients who are recovering from surgery, have chronic headaches, or for children who got hurt while playing sports or were involved in auto accidents. They include prescription pain medications such as oxycodone, codeine, morphine, as well as illegal substances like heroin.

How do opioids work?

They work by blocking pain signals between the brain and the body and they also make some people feel relaxed or “high”. How do opioids cause this “high”? They do this by stimulating the release of endorphins (feel-good hormones). These hormones are normally created by the body to decrease pain and boost feelings of pleasure. It is this feeling of pleasure that pushes users to keep going for more. Continuous opioid use increases the release of endorphins and builds up a tolerance. Therefore, abusers tend to increase doses over time. These individuals end up dealing with street vendors, or turn to more dangerous forms of drugs like heroin, once their prescription runs out.

Helpful tips for conversations with your children

As mentioned earlier, one of the most effective ways to tackle the opioid crisis is by teaching your children about its dangers as early as possible. Below are a few helpful tips to help guide you:

    • If your children are toddlers, it might not really be wise to start talking about drug abuse and addiction. You can, however, start talking about medicine. Some children enjoy the flavour or taste of medicine. Use that as an opportunity to teach them that medicine is not candy. Teach them that medicine should only be taken under supervision, in small amounts and only when they are sick (except for vitamins). Teach them that taking too much medicine will make them ill.
    • Teach your children the importance of taking good care of themselves – hygiene, proper nutrition, regular exercise and getting a good night’s sleep. You can use story-based learning as a teaching tool because it is easier for them to understand stories.
    • Have conversations with them about drug-related messages from television ads, cartoons, movies, etc. And ask them questions about drugs so you will know how they know and what they think about drugs.
    • Start talking about peer pressure as early as possible. Teach your children how important it is for them to make their own decisions. Teach them how to say no! Children who don’t know how to say “no” are more likely to give in to peer pressure.
    • It is also important for you to know who their friends are as well as their friend’s parents.

As they grow older, make it clear that they should stay away from alcohol, illegal drug use and tobacco.

Your children’s anti-drug education starts at home, not in school. Make it a habit to discuss drugs and use stories to educate them on the dangers of drug abuse (story-based learning).

Categories: Learning

19 Comments

Adaego M. Azi · November 29, 2019 at 6:55 am

After reading the article I realized just how little I know about opioids. Wow–the two videos were very sad. The last video, “Lessons from the Child of an Addict” made me happy I had the parents that I did. I can’t imagine being raised by a mother who was addicted to drugs–just imagining that being my childhood, made me realize how fortunate most of us are. This is a very interesting and informative article. Thanks duppydomTEAM 🧡

    duppydomTEAM · November 29, 2019 at 8:05 pm

    Adaego – I am glad to know that you found the article informative. There is certainly a lot of information to digest when it comes to the opioid crisis. Aside from the opioid epidemic, I have also thought how lucky I was to be raised in a home where my parents were psychologically sound. Children who are raised in a home with any kind of turmoil are at a disadvantage from the get-go, and the impact could take a lifetime to resolve 👨‍👩‍👦‍👦

      Adaego M. Azi · December 1, 2019 at 3:39 am

      👏

S. Jakes · November 29, 2019 at 2:54 pm

duppydomTEAM – this is another timely article. I do not have any children, but I do have experience with opioid addiction – not me personally, but a family member. She is one of my cousins, and as mentioned in the article she began using drugs when she was a preteen. I think her biggest problem was peer pressure, or not having the will (?) to say “no” to her friends. She has been in and out of rehab for many years and has caused a lot of distress for my aunt. I have not seen her for a few years, but from what I hear, she is still not doing okay. Addiction is really a horrible disease. Thank you for links in the article – they were very informative 👏

    duppydomTEAM · November 29, 2019 at 8:03 pm

    When it comes to the young being let astray, peer pressure can often be at the center. When one of my nephews was in grade school, he was constantly getting in trouble and being sent home from school – why? Because whatever his friends dared him to do, he would – thank goodness drug use was never involved. S. Jakes, I wish your cousin well. Addiction at a young age can be devastating for everyone involved, but the good news is that people grow and change, and addiction does not have to last a lifetime 💛💛

      Adaego M. Azi · December 1, 2019 at 3:40 am

      👏

      S. Jakes · December 1, 2019 at 4:16 pm

      I read the information at the website. Thank you.

    Amie Warwick · November 30, 2019 at 7:34 am

    S. Jakes – I wish your cousin well. I know exactly what your aunt is going through.

    Adaego M. Azi · December 1, 2019 at 3:45 am

    🤗

Lisa Steffler · November 30, 2019 at 4:41 am

Reading this article made me more afraid than anything. Most parents will tell you that this is something that keeps us up at night. My children are now at the age where they want more freedom, and this is what makes me the most terrified. Giving them more freedom means my husband and I don’t always know what they are up to and who they are socializing with behind our backs. We do most of the things mentioned in the article, but this still does not prevent us from panicking. One thing–I don’t know if this is good or bad, my kids and their friends know a lot about opioids. Thanks for the advice.

    duppydomTEAM · November 30, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    I know parents probably don’t want to find out that their children know a lot about drugs. And this might sound counterintuitive, but their knowledge might be a good thing – think of “knowledge as the best medicine”. Research shows that children who know the facts about drugs and alcohol are significantly less likely to use them. But, because their knowledge might contain misinformation, here is where YOU come in – their knowledge (or misinformation) could be the impetus for beginning conversations about drug use. Here is something you might find useful: scenarios and scripts on what to say to your child and/or teenager regarding drugs and alcohol. Good luck, Lisa 🌻🌼. And thank you for your continued support.

      Adaego M. Azi · December 1, 2019 at 3:41 am

      .👏

      Lisa Steffler · December 8, 2019 at 12:10 am

      Thank you duppydomTEAM – your comments are somewhat comforting.

Amie Warwick · November 30, 2019 at 7:31 am

It is truly amazing how far reaching the opioid crisis really is. I am guessing that everybody knows someone who is affected. Without giving names, there are two people in my family, who have been affected for years. Both as a result of addiction to pain medication. Because of this problem, I have read a lot of material on addiction, prevention and cure. I think the thing that saddens me the most, is the articles I have read about many doctors overprescribing pain medication and their part in the epidemic.

    duppydomTEAM · November 30, 2019 at 5:09 pm

    Amie – the good news is that some of these individuals and institutions are now paying for their contribution to the opioid crisis. I am sure that most of you have heard that “…Purdue Pharma, and…the Sackler family, are offering to settle more than 2,000 lawsuits against the company for $10 billion to $12 billion…The lawsuits that Purdue and the Sacklers are seeking to settle allege that their company’s sales practices were deceptive and at least partly responsible for the opioid crisis…”. In addition, pharmaceutical companies like Endo International Plc and Johnson & Johnson are also facing lawsuits. Some local governments argue that these companies are partly to blame for the opioid crisis across the U.S. Thank you Amie ⚠

      Adaego M. Azi · December 1, 2019 at 3:42 am

      👏

    S. Jakes · December 1, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    Ditto!! 😢❤

Bruce Peters · December 6, 2019 at 4:11 pm

duppydomTEAM – what angers me the most about the opioid crisis is the government’s lackadaisical approach to fixing the problem. I consider this to be one of the most pertinent issues of the 20th and 21st century and governments are just now getting serious about supporting, prevention, treatment and recovery services. I remember reading an article that indicated that from 1990 to 2017 the opioid epidemic took almost 1/2 million souls – that is appalling in my eyes.

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