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How to talk to your kids about drugs before they go back to school

Marcel Gemme

Special to the Village News

Speaking about drugs and alcohol does not have to be a one-and-done conversation. The best approaches tend to involve lots of frequent little talks and making it part of general conversation.

Amid the opioid epidemic and the ease at which teens can purchase drugs off social media, there is an increasing risk of fentanyl overdose. Resources like the Parent's Guide to Fentanyl and drug education help prepare youth to make responsible choices.

In California, close to 6,000 deaths were related to fentanyl in 2021, and it continues to be a significant problem across the state.

Having these conversations before they begin to go back to school is essential. Ideally, it should take place often and frequently. However, it is never too late to start, and there are practical tips that can help anyone.

When speaking to kids about drugs and alcohol, consider some of the following tips:

• Have frequent little talks rather than one big talk. Keep it part of regular conversation. This helps to build trust and open communication; it becomes a regular part of communication. Do not make a big deal of it.

• Make your views and rules about legal and illegal drugs clear and concise; set boundaries. Yet, avoid lecturing, threatening or using scare tactics.

• Ask them what they know, listen to their opinions and answer their questions. The conversation goes both ways.

• Be a reliable source of factual information; look up the information together and discover the answers. Be prepared to share personal experiences.

• Prepare them to manage peer pressure. Rehearse scenarios and situations, practice what to say and help them know what to do when they encounter peer pressure.

• Teach them about online safety and using social media safely, such as not giving out personal information.

There are significant risks with fentanyl. Social media makes it possible to buy almost any drug, and it’s impossible to know what these drugs are cut with, and it could be fentanyl. Dealers add the potent opioid to increase the addictiveness of these drugs.

The back-to-school talk about drugs does not have to be a big deal. The goal is to provide accurate information they can use to make responsible choices and avoid bad situations. Have these conversations and make it a regular thing.

Marcel Gemme has been helping people struggling with substance use for over 20 years, most recently with the creation of SUPE: Substance Use Prevention Education. He focuses on a threefold approach in his work that includes education, prevention, and rehabilitation.


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