There are topics that are difficult to discuss with our children. Prescription opioid drug abuse is one of them. This is a scary yet important subject to speak to our children about. When is it the “right” time to have “the talk?” How do parents educate children about this difficult subject? Programs such as the Ohio Opioid Education Alliance are there to not only help educate parents about prescription opioid abuse, but they provide the tools to help them educate their children.
The Franklin County Opiate Action Plan announced a multi-million dollar effort in June 2018 to prevent youth drug abuse through awareness today. From there, the Ohio Opioid Education Alliance was born. The alliance launched an ad campaign urging parents to not go to “Denial, Ohio. ” This fictional city reflects on a place that some parents tend to go when it comes to their children and opioids. The alliance is a coalition of businesses, educational institutes, nonprofits, civic and government organizations started by the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health (ADAMH) in Franklin County, Ohio. ADAMH’s primary goal with the alliance is to help educate parents about drug abuse and to raise awareness in the community.
“It’s (Ohio Opioid Education Alliance) to educate and prevent young Ohioans from misusing and abusing opioids,” says Jennifer Martinez of ADAMH.
According to Martinez, the primary vehicle for the alliance is their Don’t Live in Denial campaign. This campaign is based in research and focus groups, and the the result was shocking.
“What we found is most people who realized there was an opioid epidemic going on in Ohio, didn’t believe that could impact their family directly,” says Martinez. “They really had a kind of ‘not my kid’ mindset about it. So we wanted to shake up that mindset and change it a little bit, and help people understand that prescription opioid medication particular is kind of a dangerous thing to leave in your home.”
Talking to your kids about this particular issue can actually decrease the chances of our children taking or trying prescription opioid medications by almost 50 percent according to research. It’s a scary subject to bring up, but even starting this conversation at an elementary age can help. But how do you speak to a child about such a touchy subject? Luckily, there are resources out there to help parents approach this conversation.
By simply going to Don’t Live in Denial’s website, dontliveindenial.org, parents can find the right resources to get good, accurate information on how to talk to children age-by-age so they are getting the right information for their children as they grow older.
“It’s also a good tool for parents to educate themselves,” says Martinez. “It’s really difficult for us to have that conversation with our kids in way if we don’t have that information ourselves and feel comfortable and confident talking about it.”
This is an epidemic that is bigger than we think, which is why one of the alliance’s goals is to go statewide with their message rather than Franklin County specific.
“It’s better to prevent the issue than to treat the issue,” says Martinez. “If we can stop kids from going down this path now, that ultimately will be an enormous help in the long run in ending this opioid epidemic that we are in.”
In 2017, 520 people died of an overdose in Franklin County, a 47 percent increase over 2016, according to Martinez. 1 in 4 teens will use or misuse a prescription drug at lease once in their lifetime, most of the time coming from prescription drugs within their home.
Helping to raise awareness is another goal of the Ohio Opioid Education Alliance. One way they raise awareness is by community outreach. Simply talking to people and spreading the word can change everything, one-by-one, bringing more people on board to help.
Parents and caregivers can also help by speaking to their children and using the resources available to help them have that discussion with their children. It’s important to guide and help them to understand that misusing prescription drugs not only effects their lives, but others around them as well.
For more information on how to help spread the word, visit dontliveindenial.org.