What advice can you give to parents of younger children so they can help their kids avoid opioid addiction?
I always tell people that Jack didn’t choose to be this way. He made a bad choice when he decided to try opiates. He had no clue he was going to become addicted to them. So, I think you have to drum it into their heads to not even try it. You don’t know if you’re predisposed to addiction. I’ve been reading a lot about addicts who have not only the mental illness of addiction, but that addiction also triggers schizophrenia or manic depression or bipolar disorder. These drugs seem to bring out these other issues they are predisposed to. And then you have a whole other set of illnesses to deal with. Nobody knows how they are genetically set up. So just don’t try it. Don’t even go near it.
Get educated. And also find out what organizations are available in your county, in your community, in your state, so you can get drug awareness programs put into your schools. Not necessarily the D.A.R.E. program. Both of my children went through the D.A.R.E. program. Both of them told me all the D.A.R.E. program did was encourage them to go out and use drugs because they wanted to find out more about them.
Know before you go take your child to the dentist or to the doctor. If that dentist wants to give your child some liquid hydrocodone – no. Absolutely not. If you just got your teeth pulled, you’re going to hurt. Take some Ibuprofen and hang in there. Sometimes if a child is given liquid hydrocodone, everything could be fine. But some children may go in there and things may not be fine. The child may really like how that feels.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your children. If they are going into high school next year, talk to them about what they may be exposed to. Sit down as a family and watch videos and get educated about drugs. Let them know you’re not saying they’re going to fall victim to this, but that you want them to get educated so if this scenario happens, they’ll be aware and may understand what’s going on. How many times have we heard stories of young ladies who are on spring break or they’re on a college campus and somebody drops a little surprise in their drink? Before you know it, bad things are happening. At our school we send out spring break safety tips and one of the safety tips is to never leave your drink unattended. We get some backlash. Some people say we are encouraging kids to drink. And we say no we’re not. We are being realistic. We know that a lot of kids are going to drink when they go to college or spring break. What we’re trying to do is prevent this from happening. It could be a glass of tea. It could be a root beer. It could be anything. Don’t leave it unattended. If you need to go to the bathroom, take that drink with you.
We need to be realistic. Kids go to spring break. A lot of them drink. We want them to come home. We want them to be safe while they’re there. And so let’s talk to them. We can do it in a professional way. We can do it in a gentle way. These kids aren’t stupid. So that’s what I would say – prevention education all day long.
Don’t be naïve. It can happen to anybody. If you think there might be an issue, there probably is. I also will say that if somebody experiments with pot, it does not mean they will not go down the full road of addiction. So don’t freak out—but don’t be naïve.
As far as prevention, don’t be afraid to talk about it. If they bring up the issue of drugs, don’t push it away. They are ready for that conversation. Another important thing to talk about is how it is a real danger. Even the most successful kids get hooked up in this. This is not a disease for dumb people or poor people or people who have no self-esteem. It hits everybody.
Another thing is to support your kids in having good friendships. That won’t prevent drug addiction, but I think it helps. Make sure that your kids hang out with kids that you would want them to hang out with, and encourage that.
And don’t forget to tell them you love them.
I think schools should teach the Twelve Steps. But they don’t. I wish I somehow had incorporated the Twelve Steps into the upbringing of my children. It ought to be taught in school. It ought to start maybe in second grade. Or preschool. And not all 12 steps in one year. Make it so it is like English 1 in English 2 and English 3. Build on it.
Travis: If their child gets hurt or injured and the doctor talks about treating them with opioids, their head should spin off. They should ask questions. They should know how addictive opioids are. Because it can happen innocently. Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin, tramadol. Those are all opiates. And they respond in your body just like heroin.
And the next thing is to work to teach Johnny coping skills. For Johnny to learn coping skills, he has to fall down, he has to skin his knee, and he has to come up with his own way to solve his problem.
Shelly: They are saying that if you just talk openly to your kids about drug addiction, there will be a 50% less chance of those kids using drugs. Just by talking to them. Having that conversation at dinner. Have dinner together. Try it once per week and sit and talk about those kinds of things.
Travis: Now … we talked to our kids about drugs. We had all of those conversations with our kids.
Christy – Talk about it. Don’t be afraid to talk with your kids about what’s out there and explain to them what can happen.
Wayne – Parents don’t know the latest terms. Parents don’t know that kids have a thing that looks like a thumb drive and they’re smoking them and they are fooling all of their teachers. Parents don’t know that. Parents are going to learn from their kids. Constantly ask questions. And so you don’t really put them on the spot, ask your kids about their friends. They will talk about each other. Ask them what they see out there and tell them what you’ve heard about. Get your kids comfortable talking about drugs with you. This shouldn’t be a one time conversation of “Hey, you’re not using drugs are you?” Be the kind of parent who knows what is going on in your kids’ lives and know who they hang out with.
Christy – You don’t think something is going to happen to your kid when they are 19 and going off to college. Right? We were relieved we were getting one off to college and we had our other two in high school.
Wayne – You have to ask them what is going on. And talk to them about anything that is going on. Tell your kids about what is going on around town and what you read in the paper. So when someone offers them a drug, a pharmaceutical drug, your kids will know that pharmaceutical drugs are absolutely taboo.
Christy – You just have to be really open with your kids and share a conversation. Not just “Don’t do drugs” or “You know drugs are bad for you don’t you?”
Wayne – And it is ok to go through their room and their possessions. It’s ok. Because you know what? I’d rather have them pissed off at you for a day than have the start of an addiction going on and you can’t get to it because you’re not curious enough. They have teenage brains. They are very risky. That’s normal. Understand where they are at in their development. It’s ok. You’re allowed to look. You have to.