Pubdate: Sat, 15 Jul 2017
Source: Prince Albert Daily Herald (CN SN)
Copyright: 2017 Prince Albert Daily Herald
Author: Richard Thatcher
Page: 4


The lethal danger of fentanyl is becoming well-known. No one knows
precisely how many people die per year in Canada from opioid
overdoses. Last year, there were 922 opioid overdose deaths in B.C.
alone, and more than 340 overdose deaths in Alberta were specifically
from fentanyl. While Saskatchewan numbers are much smaller and their
official count is unclear at this point, the drug's lethal toll may
well be on the rise in this province as well; it is clearing coming
east from the coast and from Alberta.

Fentanyl is a pain killer, once used solely in veterinary treatment of
large animals. It is an opiate, used effectively by medical
specialists, especially surgeons, but used inappropriately, it is very
dangerous. Unfortunately the drug is also used illicitly as a
mood-modifying, recreational drug. It is often used unknowingly by
youth, or with careless abandon on an experimental basis, after being
acquired on its own through illicit street transactions or laced into
other drugs. It is also used by intensely addicted individuals living
a lifestyle expressing an intention of gradual suicide.

Like a commonly awkward approach to sexual topics, many parents,
feeling inadequate due to a limited knowledge base and anticipation of
not being taken seriously, tend to avoid a direct discussion with
their dependents about drug use. Surely it is time for parents to
initiate and insist upon completing a serious discussion with their
children and teens about this and other drug use. Statistics that
point to high rates of addicted opioid use and short lives due to
fentanyl are clear warning signs that virtually scream out against
parental shyness in this regard.

There is no magic treatment for this drug and one dose can be an
overdose, even a lethal dose. Talk is probably the primary preventive,
if not the cure.

Older children and youth also tend to have a superficial knowledge of
mood-modifying drugs. Yet they are often encouraged to experiment with
it by their peers or older acquaintances. If they are at all insecure
about their social status or if they are very lacking in
self-confidence, they may well be very tempted when the inevitable
persuasion of their peers regarding drug experimentation is pressed
upon them.

In short, joint fact-gathering should absolutely be on the kitchen
table but the topic must be initiated by parents.

While there is nothing new in the notion that responsible parents
should engage their children and adolescents in a serious discussion
regarding their actual or potential drug use, the deadly quality of
fentanyl makes that discussion a parenting essential.

The relevant research on street drugs has clearly indicated that
fentanyl has been found in party drugs, including ecstasy, cocaine,
and speed, as well as the more commonly used marijuana. Overdose
deaths directly from fentanyl or laced into other drugs can and does
happen to those just experimenting with drugs, including even
first-time users.

Scaring children and youth off of drugs with exaggerated messages is
ineffective on its own, as illustrated by the track record of former
U.S. First Lady Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign-an approach that
has been ridiculed by serious public health research for many years.
Instead, researchers almost universally advise parents to avoid
exaggeration and declarative instructions. Instead, they advise
respectful and intelligent discussions with the young regarding the
relative risks of different drugs and drug mixtures.

So talk to your kids about drug use. Do so with respect and enhanced
knowledge and encourage them to do some research on their own, thus
being invested in the conversation and, hopefully, personally
motivated to make good choices. Treat the circumstance as a teaching
moment for both of you. That time, knowledge gathering and sharing
could save a young life: the life of your own loved one.

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Dr. Thatcher is consulting sociologist, social-psychologist and public 
health policy advisor specializing in mental and social health issues, 
as well as substance abuse problems and solutions.
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