Understanding Opiods and teen addiction

Ask The Experts by by DeLisa Glaspie

Q: My 16yr-old l son plays multiple high school sports and I often worry about injury primarily because of the prescription pain killers and the fear of addiction. What can I do, as a parent, to become more knowledgeable about this epidemic and to protect my own child in case he needs pain medication? How can I make sure others, within my community, are aware of this frightening epidemic?

A: Understanding what opioids are is a good start. Opioids are a class of drugs that includes heroin as well as the prescription pain relievers oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl and others. Four out of five new heroin users started out misusing prescription pain killers.

Adolescents (12-17) often become addicted because of shared unused pain relievers. Adolescents who misuse prescription pain relievers often obtain them from a friend or relative for free unaware of the dangers of nonmedical opioid use. In addition, prescribing rates for prescription opioids among adolescents nearly doubled from 1994-2007.

As of 2014, an estimated 1.9 million Americans over age 12 were addicted to one or more of the aforementioned prescriptions drugs, while 586,000 were addicted to heroin. This addiction is often lethal. Startlingly, opioid overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. surpassing automobiles and gun deaths. Teens may be especially vulnerable, as their sensation-seeking and risk-taking tendencies collide with a still-developing brain. Postdoctoral fellow Julie Gaither of Yale University warned in Consumer HealthDay, young children are “eating them like candy.”

You can protect your children by talking to them and exposing them to the truth about the dangers of opioid abuse and the epidemic; share the statistics and participate in awareness events that welcome youth. Every moment with your child can be used as a teaching moment. If you or any of your family has pain killers (opioids) in their medicine cabinets – dispose of them properly. Discuss your concerns and the statistics at community gatherings; churches, book clubs, picnics, etc. Education is key to building stronger families and communities.


DeLisa Glaspie is the Child, Youth & Family Services Clinical Program Director at Northeast Guidance Center Eli Z. Rubin Children’s Wellness Center. DeLisa can be reached at 313.308.1400 x 206. Northeast Guidance Center is a member of The Family Center’s Association of Professionals.

Save the  Date

Anti-Stigma Forum: Opiates: Wonder Drugs in Wonder Years with keynote speaker, Ken Daniels

May 3, 2018
The Salvation Army, 3000 Conner, Detroit

RSVP online at neguidance.org/event/anti-stigma-forum/ or
call The Family Center 313.447.1374.

Enriched Communities Through Stronger Families
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