How to Talk to Your Child About the Opioid Epidemic

Written by Chloe Nicosia

The opioid epidemic rages on, and keeping your kids safe as they grow up is a major priority. Here’s how to explain drug addiction to a child and how to talk to kids about drugs.

As the opioid epidemic continues to claim 115 lives every single day, preventing opioid abuse is becoming more critical for ending the crisis down the road. While the opioid epidemic affects people of all ages and from all walks of life, it’s hitting 18- to 25-year-olds particularly hard. ¬†Experts agree that the best way to prevent drug abuse among young people is to start drug education as early as possible and reinforce it throughout childhood and the adolescent years. Parents have an extremely important influence on whether children dabble in drugs, so talking to your child about the opioid epidemic and drug abuse is essential for protecting your child later on.

But many parents wonder how to explain drug addiction to a child and how to talk to kids about drugs effectively. Here are some expert tips to help foster productive conversations with your kids about drugs, alcohol, and the opioid epidemic.

Educate Yourself

You can’t talk to your child about drug abuse and the opioid epidemic if you don’t understand it yourself. Educate yourself about substance abuse and addiction. A couple of great places to start for accurate, up-to-date information are the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The more you know about drugs, drug abuse, and addiction, the more effectively you’ll be able to talk to your child about it.

Start Early

Starting the conversation early provides a strong foundation for talks later on. Preschool kids can learn about drugs by talking about vitamins: Vitamins can be good for you if you use them the way they’re meant to be used, but if you take too many, it can cause health problems. Whenever you or your child need to take medicine, reinforce the idea of taking it responsibly.

As your child grows and learns about drugs in school, talk about what they’re learning, and clearly lay out your expectations about drug use and the consequences you’ll dole out if your child uses drugs.

Talk Often

One of the most important considerations for how to talk to kids about drugs is to talk often. Once won’t do the trick, but frequent conversations about drug abuse can have an important impact. Find opportunities to discuss it, such as when the opioid epidemic is in the news, when a celebrity talks about their drug use or gets in trouble for illegal drugs, or when a student at your child’s school gets busted with drugs.

Make It a Two-Way Conversation

Don’t lecture your child, but rather engage her in a two-way conversation about drugs. Ask your child open-ended questions about her opinions, beliefs, and attitudes about drug use. Talk about kids at school who use drugs and how your child thinks that impacts their grades, social life, and future. Let your child be a part of the conversation.

Be Honest

Drugs make people feel good. They can help relieve stress, reduce anxiety, or alleviate depression. Let your child know that taking drugs can be enjoyable, but make sure he knows that they almost always make stress, anxiety, and depression worse and can even cause the onset of symptoms of mental illness. If your child asks, be honest about your own drug experimentation, and let him know the negative effects it had on your life.

Give Your Child an Out

Help your child develop an arsenal of ways to avoid drug or alcohol use when the opportunity presents itself. Peer pressure can be intense, but if your child has rehearsed ways to decline using, it will be easier for her to do so. Role play with your child, and let her know that if she’s ever in a situation where drugs are being used and she feels unsafe, she can call you any time, day or night, for a safe ride home.

The more you talk to your kids about drugs and the opioid epidemic, the better equipped they’ll be to handle the pressures of using once they reach high school and beyond. Keep it simple, keep it light, and keep it conversational, and your child will grow up understanding the dangers of drugs and your expectations for them in middle school, high school, and beyond.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional drug treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at 1.800.429.7690.