HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Talking To Your Kids About Fentanyl Is Essential
Pubdate: Thu, 13 Jul 2017
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2017 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Richard Thatcher
Page: A5


This lethal drug makes a discussion urgent, writes Dr. Richard

The dangers of fentanyl as a frequently used mood-modifying,
recreational drug, on its own or laced into other opiates are
gradually becoming well known.

The substance has recently gained a reputation as the Grim Reaper of
illicit drugs. The number of deaths and near deaths originating with
fentanyl use is simply shocking. Surely parents must initiate a
serious discussion with their children and teens about this and other
drug use. In this case, talk is, arguably, the primary preventive measure.

Like their 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.

Unfortunately, children and youth also tend to have a superficial
knowledge of drugs. Yet they are often encouraged to experiment with
by their peers or older acquaintances. If they are at all insecure
about their social status or they lack self-confidence, you can rest
assured that they will 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 discussion
table but the topic itself must be initiated by parents.

While there is nothing new in the admonition that responsible parents
should engage their children and adolescents in a serious discussion
regarding their actual or potential drug use, the lethal 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. In an obscenity of statistical frequency, the facts
bear this out in spades.

Scaring children and youth off of drugs with exaggerated messages has
a poor record of effectiveness, 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 young people regarding the
relative risks of different drugs and drug mixtures.

Yet even Reagan's efforts should not be entirely rejected. Since her
campaign, psychologists have developed a series of actions that enable
children and youth to much more easily take a detour around social
pressures to experiment.

As we enter a period of more legally available use of marijuana, we
must recognize that, while legal regulation is important, there will
be consequences, potentially including a shift of "dealer" marketing
to the promotion and sale of harder drugs sold at more congenial prices.

Even marijuana itself, the price of which might potentially be set by
organized crime below the prices charged through legal outlets, will
be associated with continued risks.

The American College of Pediatricians reported in April that about 17
per cent of those who use marijuana during adolescence and 25 to 50
per cent of daily users acquire a dependency on the drug. And
marijuana can be a gateway to other, less benign drug use. A recent
study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health
indicated that teenagers who regularly smoke pot are 26 times more
likely to use other drugs by their 21st birthday.

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. Treat it as a teaching moment for
both of you. That time, knowledge gathering and sharing may save the
life of one you dearly love.

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Dr. Richard Thatcher is consulting sociologist, social-psychologist and 
public health policy adviser specializing in mental and social health 
issues, as well as substance abuse problems and solutions. He lives and 
works in the Regina area.)
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