It is every parent’s nightmare. The phone rings, and it is a school counselor, nurse, or police officer calling to say that your child has been taken to the hospital due to a suspected drug overdose. It’s what happened to a half-dozen parents this month at a middle school in Glassell Park when six kids took ill reportedly due to ingesting an unknown substance. All were taken to the hospital as a precaution, and the Los Angeles Unified School District police department is investigating what happened. All of the children were in good condition at last check-in, but it is likely a day that those parents and children will never forget.
The risks of overdose rise for anyone in any household in which there is access to drugs or to people who are in regular contact with those who have drugs on hand. If a child’s friend often has a drug on hand due to a family member’s use, they are at risk of trying the drug and taking too much or having an adverse reaction. Risks of overdose for children rise considerably when a family member in the home uses drugs regularly in any capacity. Whether that person has a regular prescription for painkillers, uses cocaine or heroin recreationally, or keeps marijuana edibles on hand for any reason, children in the home are at risk of finding the drugs and deciding to experiment with them.
Is your child or other family member at risk of overdose or addiction due to substances in your home?
You may immediately assume that even if someone in the house has addictive substances there, they are hidden away and pose no harm to children or other people in the home. But consider the following:
If you are under the influence, you likely have recently pulled those substances out of their “safe spot” and used them, leaving them in plain view. And if you are under the influence, you may not notice when a middle school or high school-aged child watches you put them away or simply takes some because you are too high to notice.
One of the primary reasons for the institution of Nationwide Prescription Drug Takeback Days is to protect family members who might use addictive painkillers left over from another family member’s prescription without medical need. Some might use the drugs to treat a headache, manage pain, or escape from stress, and either inadvertently take too much and overdose or use them so frequently that they develop an addiction
Young children and kids or adults with special needs may be more likely to overdose accidentally because the pills or marijuana edibles look like regular candy, brownies, or cookies to them.
Even with the best intentions and attempts to hide use of the substances, lie about level of ingestion, or explain away use of a substance as “medicine” or otherwise necessary and justifiable, kids are kids. They see actions and behaviors more than they hear words, and it is far more likely that they will want to explore it for themselves than sit back and take the stories at face value.
You and other adults in the house are role models. Kids look up to you and make decisions on how they want to live their lives based on the choices you make. If they see you justifying choices that are risky, they will likely apply that same tactic to their own lives. The earlier they try a substance of abuse and the more times they use it during the teen years, the more likely they will be to develop an addiction disorder of their own.
You Do Have a Choice
No matter what has happened in the past at home, you have the choice to start making changes right now that will help to keep your kids and you safer. You can:
- Remove all substances from the home, including unused medications, disposing of them safely.
- Ask any other adults living in the house who use drugs to find another place to live.
- Talk to your kids about how they can avoid drug use, what to say when friends use, and how they can reach out for help if they are in a situation in which their friend is using and they want out.
- If you are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, get help. It is the only way to get back on solid ground and be the support your kids need you to be.
Is it time for you to reach out for treatment that will help you and your family to be safe?