These days it’s easy to get worried about the safety of children. With global media and the mountains of information available on the internet, parents are informed of more threats to their children than ever. One of these threats is the danger that they will abuse drugs. It may not seem possible, but 27% of school-aged children have used illegal drugs. This is actually an improvement on previous years, but if a child you know is one of the 27%, that’s no consolation.
Heroin may be particularly alluring right now for several reasons. In recent years, heroin has vastly increased in purity. It is now available at about 40% purity, which means that it can be snorted or smoked rather than injected. From a child’s perspective, this probably seems less dangerous—there’s something more overtly wrong about injecting something into your veins. Unless they’re educated about it, they have no way of knowing that inhaled heroin is just as dangerous and addictive as it is when injected.
As a parent, what do you do?
FOSTER OPEN COMMUNICATION
Teens who regularly talk to their parents about the dangers of drugs are 42% less likely to use them. It may seem awkward; you may not know where to begin. Just start somewhere. This is one of the best ways to protect a child. If you need to, work out something ahead of time that you can say to them, like, “Honey, listen. It might get a little awkward here, but we need to talk about drugs. You’re not in trouble or anything; I just want to make sure you know what you need to know to stay safe.” Planning it out ahead of time will ensure that you know where you’re going to start the conversation, and that your child knows how you want to direct the talk.
This may seem like one of those “easier said than done” steps, but with time and care (especially if started when the child is young) there may be nothing better than communication to help a child not just with drugs, but with any issue they encounter. If you feel like you can’t just jump in to the drug topic, start with general conversation. Welcome communication from the child. Ask them about school, their friends, and what they’re interested in—not as a caretaker investigating the child, but in the same way that you might catch up with a friend or family member of your own age. Then, when you’re warmed up, you’ll be ready to get into the meat of the issue.
GIVE THEM THE FACTS
Explain what heroin is, in simple terms. Here are some of the points to go over. (Doing your own research is also encouraged.)
- Heroin is a drug made from opium poppies. It can come as a white powder, a brown powder (if mixed with mystery ingredients to make it cheaper) or a black, tarry substance.
- Heroin makes you feel really, really good—for a few hours. (If you pretend this isn’t true, your child isn’t going to believe anything else you say.) Then it wears off, leaving you restless, in pain, having chills and sweats, vomiting, unable to sleep, and suffering from diarrhea.
- When heroin is injected, it damages the body at the injection site. This leads to abscesses—pockets of pus where infection has been created. It also makes you sleepy, and taking too much can kill you by stopping your lungs. People who are on heroin for longer periods often become very, very thin (unattractively and unhealthily so), as they have trouble feeding themselves correctly.
After you’ve explained this much, it’s likely your child will have questions. Continue on together, researching and learning to get the facts. The old saying is true here: knowledge is power –for both of you!