Facebook8Tweet0Pin0Submitted by Gabrielle Byrne for Public Health and Social ServicesOpioids have two faces: they can reduce pain and they can trigger the body to release pleasure-related chemicals in the brain (dopamine is one you may have heard about). This can lead from use to misuse, and possibly to an addiction to opioid drugs.Teenagers are getting addicted not just to street drugs, but also to prescription pain killers. Opioids now represent a clear and present danger to kids everywhere. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, teen deaths due to opioid overdose rose by 19% in a single year. This includes deaths due to street drugs like heroin and fentanyl, as well as to prescription medications (like oxycodone). According to the National Institute of Health, some teens may use multiple drugs or combine drug use with alcohol.Okay, you say, but this is a huge national problem. What can we do here? How can we help our own kids, and friends in our community?Be aware. Opioids are commonly prescribed to teens for things like dental surgery (e.g.; wisdom teeth), or sports injuries. Parents should ask their child’s doctor about alternatives to prescription pain medications, as well as non-drug pain relief methods (massage, physical therapy, acupuncture, etc.). If prescription pain medication is needed, ask for the lowest possible dose, and be sure an adult distributes and stores the medications. Monitor your child for signs of abuse, dependency, or over-medication.Stay connected. Playing an active, listening role for teens, to help them process what’s going on in their lives is important. Approaching touchy topics without judgment, as best you can, and sharing information shows you care.In fact, there have been a number of scholarly articles, and even Ted Talks, about the relationship between addiction and connection. The recent statement that seems to get the most play in the news is that “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety—it’s connection.”Beyond the blanket suggestion to “connect,” there are lots of concrete things that can help:Educate yourself and your teen about common substances and what they do.Talk to your teen and make sure they understand what they might, at some point, be offered, and the risks of that substance. Safe partying options are also an important discussion topic. Listen to their concerns. Offer to help them come up with creative ways to say no. Don’t put it off.Have the “Teen Link” number available on the fridge or other common space. If your teen needs to talk, and doesn’t want to talk to you, these are anonymous and confidential services. The Teen Link number is 866-833-6546 and it’s available in the evening from 6:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. The 24-hour Crisis line is also an option: 866-427-4747.Give medication as directed. If your teen’s prescription is not controlling their pain, talk to their doctor.Don’t leave opioids out where they can be seen. Store them in a locked drawer, cabinet, or tool/tackle/lock box. Hide the key in a different location.Always dispose of medications properly. Use free Medicine Take Back service locations to drop off meds you no longer need. Locations are listed at takebackyourmeds.orgAddiction, when it happens, can be scary and overwhelming. There are associated health risks—sexually transmitted diseases, blood borne infections spread through sharing needles, and worries about overdose. Talking to your teen may also become more difficult. It can be hard to know where to start. Support services for families who have a loved one struggling with opioid addiction are available. If you, or someone in your household has an opioid addiction, it is legal for you to have Naloxone, a product that may help reverse an opioid-related overdose, on hand. This drug will not help with other non-opioid drugs like methamphetamine. There are many places where Naloxone is available. In addition, there are local crisis and treatment resources.There are no easy answers when it comes to preventing addiction, nor is there an easy way forward when it happens, but there is a broad community of support—ready, willing, and able to step up and do the work at your side.