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  • Parents

It is important to get your “Dose of Reality” about the risks and dangers of using prescription painkillers, as well as the signs of misuse, before it becomes a problem for you or your loved ones.

Young people ages 12-25 are a very high-risk group for misusing opioids. While Middle and High School addiction rates thankfully remain low overall in Florida according to the most recent Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey for 2021, there are still too many of our children reporting using prescription drugs without a prescription, or differently than how they were prescribed.

However, it’s not just older children who are at risk. According to a recent study of opioid-related hospitalizations among children, one-third were between the ages of 1 and 5. It’s therefore crucial for parents to lock up their medications and safely dispose of their unwanted prescriptions and medications, including cough syrups, as opioid overdose among children has nearly doubled since 2004.

Is Your Child at Risk?

When your child starts acting withdrawn, depressed, hostile or fatigued for no apparent reason, you may not suspect at first that anything is wrong because many of these normal adolescent behaviors can also be signs of a drug-related problem.

However, there are other signs that could mean your child is either at risk or has already begun using drugs. Look out for:

  • Your child has become increasingly secretive or makes excessive attempts to be alone
  • Items suddenly missing from your home, money stolen from your wallet or from a safe place at home, or an increase in sudden requests for money without a good reason
  • A decline in school performance or attendance
  • A “new” group of friends
  • Changing relationships with family and friends
  • A loss of interest in favorite sports or hobbies
  • A change in eating or sleeping patterns or personal hygiene
  • Trouble at school or with the law

Be on the lookout and learn the slang and the abbreviated language kids and teens may use while texting, posting on social media platforms, or emailing others which may mean your child is either at risk or has already begun using drugs.

  • DOC = Drug of Choice
  • PAL = Parents are Listening
  • BRB = Be Right Back
  • P911 = Parent Alert
  • KPC = Keeping Parents Clueless

What Parents Can Do

  • If your child is dealing with drug addiction, they often become secretive, and as parents you may find answers in their rooms or cars. Drugs can often be hidden in places like shoes, highlighters, behind posters, and more. For a more comprehensive list, click here.
  • Learn to recognize the potential signs of drug impairment and know the proper steps to take if you suspect your child is using drugs.
  • Naloxone is a FDA approved medication designed to reverse an opioid overdose while you wait for emergency medical help to arrive. In Florida, Naloxone may be acquired by (1) being prescribed by a doctor or (2) visiting one of the nearly 150 organizations who offer naloxone, free-of-charge. If you fear your child may be dealing with drug addiction, learn more about Naloxone and where you can find one of the free-of-charge dispensing locations, click here.
  • Lock up medications, including cough syrups at all times, keeping it out of reach and out of sight of children, young adults, and visitors and safely dispose of unused/unwanted prescriptions
  • Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for more information on how to help your child who may be misusing prescription opioids. This national substance misuse hotline is free, confidential, and available 24/7.
  • Learn more about the dangers of misusing prescription opioids and have a conversation with your child about the possible consequences.
  • Let your child know that you and other loved ones will stand by them and offer support if they need it.
  • Do not supply your child with a steady supply of money if you aren’t certain about where and how it will be spent.
  • Rather than staging an “intervention,” focus on creating incentives to get your child to a doctor.
  • Bring your child to a medical professional who can check for signs of drug use (including drug testing) and other mental health issues.
  • Take away your child’s driving privileges if you suspect drug use to prevent an accident (this can also be used as an incentive to get your child to be evaluated by a doctor).
  • Educate yourself about substance use disorder, treatment, and recovery (see Resources).