“Make them believe that offensive operations, often times, is the surest, if not the only means of defense.”—George Washington, 1799
The war against the opioid epidemic has garnered worldwide attention. Parents all over recognize the need to prevent and intervene to reduce the likelihood of death or life-long dependence on drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a part of the National Institute on Health, abuse of prescription drugs is highest among young adults aged 18 to 25, with 5.9 percent reporting nonmedical use in the past month. Among youth aged 12 to 17, 3% reported nonmedical use of prescription medications in the month prior. Michigan is of the top ten states of the most prescriptions for opioids. Interestingly, in Michigan there are 107 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people.
The statistics are staggering, yet many parents do not want to believe their child could be of the ones experimenting with narcotic pain medication. Like the adage made famous by the George Washington quote above…the best defense is a good offense. So, how can parents set their households up to defend against infiltration by opioid drugs?
- Establish Expectations:
- Teaching the importance of following rules and expectations at a young age helps children to know what is expected of him or her, and to learn self-control.
- Teaching children to follow directions and be motivated by positive, pro-social encouragement helps kids to be accepted by teachers and adaptive peers. Conversely, kids who are likely to be rejected by teachers because of noncompliant behavior may find solace in a deviant peer group and consequently, drug use.
- If you worry about being a nag, infringing on your emerging adult’s freedom, or being called a hypocrite remember that deep down rules mean that you care about your child and his or her safety. And, as a parent, your role is to keep your child safe and teach your child how to keep themselves safe through adulthood.
- Make your expectations and how you intend to follow through with limits or rewards clear. Consider writing down expectations for curfew, text messaging or social media behavior, and drug use and how the behaviors will be addressed if misbehavior occurs. While missed curfew does not necessarily mean your child is out using drugs, if you begin to apply consistent, contingent enforcement of reasonable rules and expectations for small infractions, you are likely to prevent your child from traveling down the path of drug addiction. The structure of your home will help your child understand limits before they even do something wrong and it will remind them to not do it again in the future.
- Monitoring and Supervision:
- This is crucial for knowing if your child is following rules as well as for you to properly follow through with encouragement and praise for following and a limit or privilege loss for misbehavior.
- When it comes to drug use you must be at least as informed, if not more, than your child about what is current in terms of drug use trends.
- In simple terms, this is knowing the who, what, where, when, why of your child’s life.
- Some more overt ways to monitor and supervise are find subtle ways to “drop in,” ask questions prior to your child leaving as well as when coming home, reaching out to the parents of friends, conduct spot checks of cell phone texts and social media pages.
- When it comes to potential drug abuse, parents should make themselves aware of the words and paraphilia associated with drug use. Parents should review the contents of medicine cabinets and remove expired or unused pain medication. Parents should create a log of the number of pills in each container. Parents should also familiarize themselves with street terms, hashtags, and other lingo associated with drug use, including which message emojis kids are using to communicate about drugs.
- Tracking is a key component of monitoring and supervision. This is keeping a written record of what behaviors you are observing over time. Your child will likely work hard to convince you that things didn’t happen the way you remember, or that the things you found are not what you think they are. In the end, all this information could also be helpful in the event you must seek outside help.
- Partnership for Drug-Free Kids indicates parents should consider the following questions to monitor and track:
- When did the drug use start?
- How did it start? / How did they get it?
- Did it progress to usage of other drugs?
- Who are your child’s friends? And their parents?
- Who is in your child’s online social networks?
- Who is in their cell phone address book? If you cannot look on his or her phone, look at the monthly bill and note unfamiliar numbers.
- Note occasions when they come home late and who they’re hanging out with.
- Track the number of prescription pills in your home.
- Anything suspicious found in their room or among their belongings?
- Any drug–related terms or slang in text messages or other communications (ex: “Mary Jane” for marijuana, “Vitamin R” for Ritalin or “OCs” for OxyContin)?
- Be prepared to get additional help:
- Just because your child agrees to an intervention or seems to comply with your limits does not mean unequivocally that their drug use will stop.
- Get familiar with treatment options, especially for opioid addiction, as it often initially requires chemical detox at a hospital facility before the longer-term individual and family therapy.
- Seek treatment for yourself if you are having trouble following through with expectations and limits, if you are anxious about your child’s welfare, or experiencing guilt, shame or depression at the discovery of your child’s drug use.
Here is some overview information about Carrie Krawiec’s specializations: Carrie is licensed and trained to provide individual, couple, and family therapy. Areas of interest include a variety of relationship issues including adult family conflict, family conflicts between parents and teens, relationship and marriage counseling, co-parenting following divorce, step-parenting, peer relationships, emotional regulation, anxiety, and depression. Specific training in Parent Management Training-Oregon (PMT-O Specialist); a behavior management technique for parents to utilize with children to prevent and reduce behavior issues in children age 7 to 17.
NIDA. (2016, August 1). Misuse of Prescription Drugs. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescription-drugs on 2017, September 7
Patterson, Gerald and Marion Forgatch. Parents and Adolescents Living Together. (2005).
Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Set Limits & Monitor Behavior When Addressing Drug and Alcohol Usehttps://drugfree.org/article/set-limits-monitor/. September 7, 2017.