By: Tonya Mead, PhD, MBA, M.Ed, School-based Psychologist
There are five steps to lower fentanyl risk for your child. Parents may ask, why is this important? Fentanyl risk of death to children, adolescents and teens are increasing. The Harvard University, School of Public Health calculates that in the past two years alone, deaths of overdose induced fentanyl use have increased three-fold among teens and at an alarmingly five-fold rate for Black teens. As distressing as these statistics, the organization Families Against Fentanyl received reports from the Centers of Disease Control that the data is likely under-counted as the statistics lag six months. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) , fentanyl is a man-made opioid that is up too 100 times stronger than the pain medication, morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin.
Regardless of the user’s age, fatal overdoses due to fentanyl increased about six-fold during the five year period from 2015 to 2020.
Your typical, everyday adolescent child and teen does not go out to party, relax, or hang with friends with the intention of self-harm and death. Rather, the DEA suggest that users of fentanyl don’t even realize they are purchasing or ingesting heroin or other less potent drugs. The CDC adds, [fentanyl] is often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product, with or without the user’s knowledge—to increase its euphoric effects.”
This sediment is echoed by an emergency medical physician at Scripps Mercy Hospital, San Diego, California, “the problem is both supply and demand,” she said. “There’s already a lot of fentanyl coming into our market and now we have a pandemic where people are isolated and not working, or not in school. These teenagers probably don’t have a substance use disorder, they’re experimenting, making a bad choice, and they end up dead.”
How parents reduce fentanyl risk
Parents should remain vigilant, keeping ears wide open. It is important for parents, legal guardians and caregivers to track their child’s whereabouts, monitor and supervise the activities of their child’s group of friends. It is possible that buyers don’t put the word out that they are seeking fentanyl, rather when fentanyl is sold is also known as Apace, China Girl, China Town, China White, Dance Fever, Goodfellas, Great Bear, He-Man, Poison and Tango and Cash.
Your child or lover one may be simply told by others that they have a pill available for them to purchase that has these effects on the body: relaxation, euphoria, pain relief, and sedation. At the same time, fentanyl use can cause confusion, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, urinary retention, pupillary constriction, and respiratory depression. Therefore, if your child returns home from a night out, or shortly after school, or an after school activity with friends; be sure to maintain a watchful eye for mental fog, vomiting, complaints of dizziness and nauseousness, bloat/constipation and slowed breathing.
Steps to reduce fentanyl risk
- Speak with your child early and often about the dangers of drug use
- Explain to your child to refrain from accepting any ingestible substances from friends and strangers
- Refrain from taking your prescribed medications and nutritional supplements in the presence of your child (what a child sees a child does)
- Practice with your child on different ways he/she can say ‘no’
- Encourage critical thinking and engage in robust conversations so that your child will gain confidence in speaking his/her mind and making his/her own decisions
Dr. Mead, PhD, MBA, MA http://www.ishareknowledge.com is a consultant specializing in human behavior, school and social psychology. She can be contacted at: tonya at ishareknowledge dot com