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Opioids: How to Protect Your Children

Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids accounted for 6 percent of 41,502 in 2012. In 2015, this number had risen to 18 percent, 51 percent of 70,630 deaths in 2019, and 66 percent of 106,699 deaths in 2021. It appears that this number will increase even further based on preliminary data.

It is concerning for parents to learn that opioid misuse is common among teens. In high school, approximately one in seven students admitted to misusing prescription opioids in their lifetime, and approximately one in fourteen students admitted to misusing prescription opioids at present.

The opioid crisis has disrupted public safety, as well as healthcare, child welfare, juvenile justice, and a range of other systems.

What are opioids?

Opioids are narcotic drugs with a high degree of addiction. These substances include prescription painkillers and illegal drugs such as heroin. An opium poppy plant produces small amounts of opium, which is the basis of opiaoids, which are synthetic versions of the opium. Taking high doses of this medication can cause the heartbeat and breathing to become completely slowed.

Here are some examples of opioid medications used for nonmedical purposes:

  • Oxycodone. OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet, Oxecta, Oxycet, and Roxicodone are among the brands that contain this drug. Kicker, 30s, 40s, 512s, Oxy, O.C. Beans, Blues, Buttons, Cotton, Kickers, Killers, Percs, and Roxy are some of the street names for this substance.

  • Fentanyl. The strength of Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora, Lazanda, and Sublimaze is 50 to 100 times that of heroin. Fentanyl and fentanyl-laced heroin are known by such street names as; Apache, Birria, Blonde, Blue Diamond, China Buffet, China White, China Girl, Dance Fever, Facebook, Friend, Goodfella, Jackpot, Murder 8, Snowflake, TNT, Tango and Cash, White Ladies.

  • Hydrocodone or dihydrocodeinone. These drugs include Vicodin, Norco, Zohydro, Hysingla Co-gesic, Liquicet, Lorcet, Dolacet, Anexsia, Zydone, and Xodol. There are many street names for the pill version and cough syrup form, including; Robo or Tuss, Vikes, Veeks, Idiot Pills, Scratch, 357s, Lemonade, Bananas, Dones, Droco, and Lorries.

  • Codeine, like hydrocodone. Street names for it include syrup, as it is sometimes found in cough syrup form. Cody or schoolboy are brands of acetaminophen that contain codeine, such as Tylenol.

  • Morphine. These include brands like AVINza and Kadian. Alternatively, it may be called Mister Blue or Dreamer.

Addiction and opioid use.

The reason why some people become addicted to opioids and others do not is not yet known. Opioids typically provide pain relief and euphoria, or a feeling of heightened well-being for some people. After taking opioids, you may feel euphoric, which may be a sign of addiction. It is possible for people to experience the same euphoria while taking opioids prescribed by their physicians.

People may take opioid drugs early on in their opioid use disorder because of their pleasurable effects. Eventually, the pleasant sensations fade away. In order to restore euphoria or avoid withdrawal symptoms, people may take opioids more frequently and at higher doses.

It is more likely to become addicted to opioids if you take them regularly. Generally, becoming physically dependent takes a couple of weeks, but it varies from person to person. The first dose of an opioid can create physiological effects that can make someone vulnerable to opioid use disorder, even when taken for a day or two.

Effects of the opioid epidemic on children and teens.

Opioid addiction breaks apart families.

The effects of nonmedical opioid use affect the entire family. Buying or selling opioids can cause a parent to be arrested and sent to jail, causing families to break apart. It is possible that parents who develop addictions cannot prioritize the needs of their children and family.

According to a report by the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, 40 percent of children enter foster care because of their parents' drug and alcohol abuse.

Drug addiction accounted for 36 percent of child removals, and alcohol abuse accounted for 4 percent. Among states with high foster care populations, Georgia, Indiana, and West Virginia are among those that are grappling with addiction issues. Children and their families are placed under additional stress by a state's inability to cope with the growing demand on foster care.

Exposure to opioids and NOWS during pregnancy.

Neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS) can occur in babies exposed to opioids during pregnancy. Approximately one baby with NOWS is born every 15 minutes, according to federal reports. Low birth weight, breathing difficulties, and difficulty eating are common issues for babies with NOWS who face prolonged hospital stays.

Seizures and tremors are also possible symptoms. Treatment, recovery care, and other services are available to pregnant women who use opioids.

Children's safety and health are at risk when parents abuse opioids.

A range of physical, behavioral, and cognitive problems are more likely to occur in infants whose mothers used drugs or alcohol during pregnancy. In neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), tremors, excessive crying, poor feeding, rapid breathing, and tremors are all symptoms of post-birth withdrawal caused by prenatal exposure to opioids.

In addition to causing ineffective or inconsistent parenting, substance abuse can also leave children at risk of not receiving adequate nutrition, supervision, and nurturing.


Using opioids improperly can have long-lasting and intergenerational consequences. In addition to opioid addiction, children and adolescents may experience other traumas, including incarceration of a parent or sibling, witnessing overdoses or deaths of loved ones, separation from their families, bereavement, stigma, interpersonal victimization, neglect, hunger, or poverty due to opioid addiction. In addition, grandparents may care for their grandchildren if their parents are impaired or die of opioid misuse.

Sometimes kids can't be placed with relatives because the relatives themselves have substance abuse issues or already have a lot of kids. If the child needs to be removed, a careful evaluation of the family circumstances is necessary. Sometimes kids can become parentified, i.e., taking on the role of "parent" to impaired adults while they need help.

Educational consequences.

A report and paper from the Bookings Institute show how opioids have affected the education outcomes of children in drug-impacted communities. In this study, the authors wanted to find out, “What is the effect on children’s learning while being embedded in a community where the opioid epidemic has taken hold?”

According to them, “Our evidence, while only correlational in this report, suggests a need to be aware of the potentially negative effects of the opioid epidemic on the education outcomes of children.” Even though they just focus on test scores in third grade, they note that the opioid epidemic will probably affect more outcomes, like attendance, school discipline, graduation, and college enrollment.

Overdose & poisoning from opioids.

Since 1997, pediatric and adolescent opioid poisonings have tripled. Teenagers made up the majority of patients, but toddlers and preschoolers accounted for the largest number of poisonings.

According to current research, children age 5 and under are most likely to die from poisonings caused by opioids. Among children in that age group between 2005 and 2018, 346 deaths were caused by opioid poisoning, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Here's what parents can do to prevent nonmedical opioid use.

Make sure your kids are aware of the dangers of drugs.

In homes where drugs are discussed, children are less likely to use drugs than in homes where drugs are not discussed. Discuss the safety of medications with young children by not letting them take pills without your permission.

When children are older and more likely to see images of alcohol and drug use in media, open a discussion about those topics. Explain how your rules around alcohol and drugs affect your children, and how they are harmful and can result in injury, overdose, or death, using simple language. Ask children about what they see at school and among their peers as they grow into teens. Continue to reinforce your rule and expectations regarding alcohol and drugs, and share information about the risks.

If your teen shares opioid medications, make sure they know the legal ramifications. The fact that many pills supposedly designed for prescription use are illicitly manufactured and tainted with fentanyl should also be stressed. It is also possible to adulterate other substances with opioids, such as cannabis.

Dispose of leftover prescriptions safely and store medicines safely.

Keep opioids and other prescription medications away from children. Make sure you count and monitor the number of pills you have and that they are locked away. These medications should not be allowed to be accessed unsupervised by your child or teenager. Prescription medications that belong to someone else should never be given to your child. About half (45%) of people 12 and older who took pain relievers nonmedically in 2021 got them from friends, relatives, or were given them.

Remember to return leftover prescriptions to the hospital, pharmacy, or doctor's office. Unused prescription medications are collected in many communities through "take-back" events.

Develop a pain management plan with your doctor if your child is in pain.

How to manage pain and discomfort for your child after a surgical procedure may be on your mind. It is widely believed that opioids are the most effective painkillers. Researchers, however, have found that non-opioid medications, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, and non-medical approaches can be just as effective as opioids. As a first step in managing chronic pain, your doctor may recommend complementary and alternative treatments such as acupuncture.

An opioid-containing pain reliever may be prescribed if your child continues to suffer from severe pain. The use of opioids prescribed to your children should be monitored. Taking the medication as directed should take place as soon as possible, and for as short a period as possible. When an opioid is prescribed, talk to your doctor about co-prescribing naloxone, a medication that prevents overdose deaths caused by opioids.

Get help if your child is using opioids non-medically.

Never hesitate to seek assistance if you or your child is using opioids nonmedically. Medications that can help teens and young adults with opioid use disorders can be explained by your child's pediatrician, or they can be referred to other providers who can provide this treatment. It is possible to treat pregnant women suffering from opioid addiction in a similar manner.

In the event of an opioid overdose emergency, know what to do.

In the event of an overdose emergency, discuss naloxone with your pediatrician. A possible overdose can be recognized by difficulty breathing, sleepiness, and sleepiness that cannot be woken up. Whether or not you administer naloxone to someone experiencing an overdose, you should always call 911.

Additional resources.

You can find information about drugs in a variety of resources, many of which are right in your own community. Libraries, schools, and community service organizations can be helpful sources of such information. The following government organizations can also be contacted.

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