When it comes to drugs and your kids – it’s time to say “Let’s Talk”
The Canadian Paediatric Society has recently raised the alarm after studying the number of children presenting with severe or life-threatening exposure to opioids, stimulants, or sedatives over a two-year period .
According to the 2022 Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program (CPSP), overdose is now the leading cause of death in children and teens between the ages of 10 and 18 in Western Canada, declaring it a public health emergency. A significant number of adolescents in all of the Canadian provinces sought care after an overdose in 2022.
Stimulant overdose was the most commonly reported, followed by sedatives, then opioid overdoses.
The majority of parents assume that a drug overdose or substance addiction would never be an immediate threat to their children, but this recent study by the Canadian Paediatric Society points to a disturbing trend.
“Parents don’t think their kids are at risk. It’s always somebody else’s kid. But as parents and trusted adults who work with children, it’s more important than ever to take preventative measures.”Chantal Vallerand, Executive director, Drug Kids Canada
A DFKC tracking study found that only 11 per cent of Ontario high schoolers admitted to using opioids or prescription drugs for recreational use, but there is still a high risk.
Although stimulants, sedatives and opioids are not the substances that most kids will try first, there is a great risk to taking these drugs recreationally, and parents and any trusted adults that have a relationship with a child, can play an essential role in limiting the risk of harm to youth when it comes to substance use, by talking openly about it.
Drug prevention starts with open conversation
Drug Free Kids Canada’s tracking studies have consistently found that teens consider their parents to be their most reliable source of information, followed by school, then peers.
When families are able to have honest and open conversations about the risks of early substance use, kids feel more empowered to make the important decisions that benefit their own health.
Teens can be curious, and they may have questions they want to ask their parents or other trusted adults in their lives – so it’s a good idea to be educated about substances.
“We’re proposing for parents to have informed safety discussions about substances early on in a child’s life, approaching the conversation with curiosity as opposed to lecturing a kid. ”Chantal Vallerand
DFKC aims to help educate and engage parents to normalize the drug conversations, even if it feels uncomfortable, and make them a regular part of the safety talks that all parents have with their children as they grow – so that teens can feel safe and secure enough to go to their parents when they need answers, or help.
The Drug Free Kids website has evidence-based information about drugs as well as practical resources and tips to help parents have those important conversations with their children. It also the home of the Parent Support Hub, a free chat or phone helpline that is available 24/7 to support parents with concerns about their child’s use of substances.
Here are 5 easy things you can do to optimize your kids’ safety:
- Learn more about the substances you want to discuss with your children.
- Talk with your children, taking into consideration their age, and make it a two-way conversation.
- Secure all prescription, over-the-counter medications, cannabis, alcohol, and illicit drugs and always store them safely out of reach of children and teens.
- Take back unused and expired medications to the pharmacy for safe disposal.
- Keep a naloxone kit in the home’s first aid kit and be aware of what an overdose looks like – especially if a family member has been prescribed opioids or someone is already using opioids recreationally.