Fredericksburg Parent

June 2019

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24 Fredericksburg Parent and Family • June 2019 Ask the Expert a sk t h e e x p e rt Opioid abuse has been declared a public health emergency in Virginia, and the annual number of drug overdose deaths continues to grow in the state and nationwide. While most of the overdose deaths seen in the Fredericksburg region stem from heroin and fentanyl, addiction to these drugs can begin with abuse of substances commonly found in many households with children. Research by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids indicates that 1 in 4 children say they have taken a prescription medicine that was not pre- scribed to them at least once in their lifetime. Research from the same organization states that 1 in 8 teens report that they have gotten high off over-the-counter cough syrup. Prevention starts when parents educate themselves about the risks and take active steps to manage what comes into their house, how it's stored and what children know about the consequences of misusing medicines. The Rappahannock Area Community Services Board's Prevention Services program works with law enforcement and other community groups to spread the word about prescription drug abuse. RACSB's REVIVE! training sessions are held throughout the year, teaching par- ticipants how to recognize an opioid overdose and how to use naloxone to reverse an overdose. The Spotsylvania Sheriff's Office has also held town-hall meetings and regularly speaks to high school students about the problem. Q: How early should parents talk to their children about responsible use of medicines? Michelle Wagaman, RACSB Prevention Services Coordinator: We start as early as preschool. It's a different language than you would use in high school, but children can understand the basic concepts that what we put in our bodies is important, and that we want to make good decisions for our body and brain health. We have a program called Healthy Alternatives for Little Ones (HALO) that teaches about making good choices. Messages like, if you see a syringe or pill on the playground, don't touch it. Get an adult, don't pick it up. If you can teach children not to put their fingers in electrical sock- ets, you can teach them not to put other things in their bodies. Detective First Sergeant M. Woodard, Spotsylvania Sheriff's Office: As soon as I felt like my kids were able to comprehend what medicine was, I started driving home the fact that the only medicine you put in your body is something we—your parents—give you. And then you expand that into: who are the people who can give you medicine? The doctor, mom, dad, the nurse at the doctor's office. You start trying to build that solid foundation that there is only a core group of people you can take medicine from. You want to make sure they understand that it's not OK for somebody else's parents to give medicine without permission from your parents. Wagaman: It's also important to tell your kids not to share their medicine with others. It's prescribed to them for a reason. Q: Who is at risk for addiction to opiates and other prescription drugs? Wagaman: Drug addiction affects all socioeconomic levels, all races and genders. The face of addiction perhaps has changed over the years. For some children, experiences they have had in early childhood may make them more predisposed to addiction. When infants experience toxic stress—abuse, neglect, household dysfunction—it rewires their brains. We may not see the effect of that until adolescence. It may show up as cognitive challenges, delays in the classroom, but also the inability to feel pleasure. That leads these children to seek plea- sure elsewhere, often through risky behaviors. Woodard: A 2016 study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention stated that the average age for new opiate users was 18 to 25. What a lot of parents don't understand is that the first experi- ence that a lot of adolescents have with an opiate is for a legitimate medical reason. That really is key. INTERVIEWED BY EMILY FREEHLING PREVENTION SERVICES RACSB RESOURCES FOR TALKING TO YOUR CHILDREN Guides from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids "Talk. They hear you." From the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Helpful Information for Parents on Prescription Drug Abuse

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