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How to Talk to Your Teenager About Fentanyl

Parents wanting to know the best practices for talking about drug use with their children is nothing new. But fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that's 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin, has dramatically changed the need to have these conversations. Failing to talk about drugs with your kids may cost them their life.

Drug overdoses continue to soar across the U.S., and fentanyl is responsible for this uptick. Drug manufacturers lace prescription pills and other narcotics with fentanyl to cut costsIn 2022 alone, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seized nearly 60 million fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills and over 13,000 pounds of fentanyl powder.

Unfortunately, even just taking one pill can be lethal. Parents need to be proactive and discuss the risks of fentanyl, accidental overdoses, as well as other harm reduction strategies with their teenagers. Here's what you need to know.

Have Conversations About Fentanyl Overdoses Early

Some parents worry that talking about drugs will pique a child's interest in experimenting with drugs. However, this isn't true. In fact, children may be less likely to develop a substance use disorder when they are thoroughly informed about the risks of taking drugs.

The goal is to engage in active, collaborative discussions. You want to explain the relationship between fentanyl and street drugs. You also want to mention why overdose deaths are so high and how the illegal fentanyl crisis has contributed to this epidemic.

You also need to mention that fentanyl isn't only a problem with other opioids or counterfeit pills. Research shows that buying any drug on the street can be risky, and that includes cocaine, Xanax, and marijuana.

Talk About Good Samaritan Drug Laws

Good Samaritan laws protect people who seek aid during an alcohol or drug-related emergency. Such laws vary state by state, but most of them protect victims (including minors) from prosecution or charges.

Parents need to remind their teenagers that they need to get assistance if they suspect a drug overdose is occurring. When it comes to fentanyl, even one pill can be a lethal dose.

Some fentanyl overdoses can be reversed if and when someone is trained to use naloxone. But keep in mind that some teenagers won't want to call 911 if they think they'll get in trouble.

This is where it's important to be clear and concise about both your boundaries and the legal boundaries. Some points to note include:

  • Teaching your child how to recognize an overdose

  • Thoroughly explaining the differences between real and fake prescription pills

  • Reminding them they can always reach out to you if they feel concerned about their safety in any setting

  • Outlining exactly what they should do if they suspect someone is overdosing on a legal or illegal drug, including fentanyl.

Clarify Your Expectations and Consequences Surrounding Drug Use

You ultimately can't control whether your teenager uses drugs. However, your child should clearly know where you stand on this issue.

Children benefit when they sense their parents are on their side and understand their struggles. This means validating their curiosity about potentially experimenting with various drugs. It also means opening dialogue for talking about what their friends are or aren't doing.

At the same time, structure and boundaries are important. Let your child know that you won't tolerate drugs being used in your home and that you will seek recovery support services if you sense they need additional guidance.

Discuss Naloxone and Fentanyl Test Strips

Fentanyl test strips (FTS) can be part of a harm reduction strategy, and they may prevent your teenager or their friends from having an unintentional opioid overdose.

FTS are tiny strips of paper that will detect the presence of fentanyl in various types of drugs. The drug simply needs to be placed into a dry container, and then the individual needs to mix it with water, lay the test strip down into the water, and read the test results after the designated time.

Naloxone is an FDA-approved opioid antagonist that can reverse opioid overdoses in heroin, fentanyl, and other opioids. Naloxone can be given in various forms, including as an intranasal spray or as an intravenous injection. Teaching your child how to use naloxone can help them save a life, and it may also be important for parents to consider having it on hand (even if you don't believe your child would ever use fentanyl or other drugs.

Get Your Child Support If They're Struggling With Substance Abuse

Substance use disorders can emerge at any age, but teenagers are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of illicit drugs. Because the adolescent brain is still developing, your child may also be more vulnerable to addictive and impulsive tendencies.

At Resurface Group, we support teens, young people, and their families to get the treatment they need to improve their quality of life. Our clinical services and support groups offer a bridge between residential care and outpatient treatment by offering structure and support for individuals with substance use disorders and other mental health issues. Our virtual program, Resurface Connect, provides comprehensive services throughout California.

Contact us today to learn more about our dynamic programs.

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