From the ‘90s and 2000s we remember the ‘just say no’ campaigns against drugs. Whether they worked or not, at that time, addiction was a fear, and rightly so; drugs could ruin promising lives.
Today, however, we’re dealing with a more serious issue, layering on top of our fears of addiction. Fentanyl is being found in modern forms of common street drugs like heroin and cocaine because it’s cheap to synthesize. It’s also deceiving people into thinking it’s a less harmful choice because it’s sold as a prescription drug and used in ‘real’ medicine.
But fentanyl is 50-100 times more lethal than other drugs. It’s killing our ‘good kid’ teens. Deaths are happening in a single dose. This article on PBS.org shows a side-by-side picture of the lethal doses of heroin and fentanyl. A picture is worth a thousand words, and you’ll certainly get that idea when seeing the comparison visually. Deadly fentanyl almost looks like a few grains of salt.
Messages against drugs today are not just about surviving addiction or suffering brain damage: they’re about whether or not your ‘experimenting’ kid is going to die tonight.
Fentanyl overdoses are happening to teens we wouldn’t expect them to happen to
The scary thing is that these overdoses are happening to the teens we least suspect them to be happening to. Whether you think your kids are at risk or not, it’s important your entire family knows this information. Don’t think the headlines about our opioid crises don’t apply to your ‘good kid.’
Remember: fentanyl is taking one dose to kill. Just one. That’s one bad decision, or one ‘trick’ that a teen is taking something else, when in fact it’s laced with deadly fentanyl.
Fentanyl teen overdose stories in the news are real, and telling of an opioid crisis among our kids
If we sound strong, we hope to be. Type the words, “fentanyl teens” into Google and you’ll get no shortage of news stories telling the tale that is now becoming common: ‘teen dies of fentanyl overdose.’ Don’t believe us? Think it’s just a USA thing? Nope. Here are some Canadian news articles to get you started:
“She did not get the risks”: Esquimalt teen dies in suspected fentanyl overdose – this article tells the story of a teen who died because she believed in a world where someone could pay their dealer $20 extra “to make sure there’s no fentanyl.” In other words, the kids might know about the dangers of fentanyl already. They just might not think they will be a victim.
‘These drugs are killing our kids’: Why teen brains are more vulnerable to fentanyl and opioid addiction – this article shows the startling graph of the spike in fentanyl overdoses in 2016. It also tells the story of a teenage girl who died in a Port Moody, B.C. Starbucks bathroom because of fentanyl and heroin. And, the story of a 23-year-old who beat addiction in his teens, but later died from an overdose.
Pills laced with fentanyl found near teen who overdosed, police confirm – this is the story of a grade 9 Ottawa student who died of a fentanyl overdose after two days in hospital. The only warning sign? “A few typical teenage issues.” And apparently, a counsellor was not enough. Kids need to know, ‘real and hard,’ how serious this opioid crisis is.
What should parents and teachers do about fentanyl education among teens at home and at school?
You may feel like, as the parent, your kid won’t listen to you. It’s a common fear. But there are ways to go about the conversation. And part of that is forming the right relationship with your teen.
Apart from having ‘the talk,’ there is more you can do as a parent or teacher at school to give fentanyl education to teens.
Firstly, get educated about it yourself. Below are great resources to understand ‘what is fentanyl’? And many questions surrounding it:
Proactively educate teens on fentanyl dangers. Prevention is the best cure. And by that we don’t just mean telling kids not to do drugs. But know that most people taking opioids don’t know they are. In cases where they do know, it may have started out innocently, as pain medication. In fact, this article on Vox explains that more people are dying as a result of what starts as prescription opioids, than other recreational drug use.
Make sure your school is utilizing educational methods to keep teens aware of the risks of fentanyl. Remember, it’s not detectable, and not all drug sellers will say fentanyl has been added to their questionable products. Kids also should not assume that if a pill looks like a prescription, it is one.
Make sure teens know about precautions when using drugs. While we know it’s hard to make it sound like you’re ok with kids doing drugs, but this point of education can save lives. Since the teens are likely to make choices due to peer pressure, or because they’re just unaware of the risks (like the stories above), these points can at least keep them in check:
- Get a hold of Naloxone (THN) kits. These can save lives if someone is overdosing. According to this article, even non-drug-using parents should have these, just in case they’re in a situation they’ll be needed.
- Never do drugs alone. Try to have a designated ‘no high’ person present.
- Know the symptoms of a fentanyl overdose.
And, a big one….
Teach teens to get their drugs tested for fentanyl before taking them. There are centres that will do this, such as Insite in Vancouver, online, or at certain pharmacies. You can advocate to have more centres offer these cheap, or free tests.
As parents and adults, let’s set examples for our kids when it comes to drug use
We’re going to end this with an opinion, by mentioning that during our research on this topic, we read about unsuspecting adults taking drugs, and dying of overdoses too. Of course, no one thinks it will be them until it happens. Recently a North Vancouver couple died of an overdose, leaving behind a two-year old. We found other stories of parents taking drugs around kids, which are too tear-jerking to mention here. But you can find them if you look.
When things like this happen, we have to wonder, why? Why waste life? For what? And, if they had survived, would they be indifferent about their decision? Would they do it again?
While articles above do explain that teen brains are developing, and thus can be more harmed by drugs, it doesn’t exempt adults from the responsibility of making those decisions wisely too. We’re even reading of marijuana laced with fentanyl – not a lot, but it’s out there. What seems innocent, and just some fun, may not be. Kids brains are not yet fully developed. But adult brains should be. Adults are in a better position to make mature decisions.
Teens are going through a hard time. While you may not play the role of being their ‘best buddy,’ you can set an example for them when it comes to drug use. If they see you behave irresponsibly with prescriptions, or with recreational drugs, expect that it will have an impact on their attitude towards them too.