What You’ll Learn: An understanding Fentanyl, the threat it poses and how to have conversations with adult children and grandchildren.
Stories of fentanyl have populated news outlets nationwide for years, but many individuals still are unclear about precisely what it is and why it is so dangerous. At ECDOL, we aim to inform aging adults about issues that may affect them or their loved ones. To help, we created a guide that explains in detail what fentanyl is, why it is so dangerous, and how individuals can talk to their loved ones about it.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid drug. It is approved by the FDA for medical use to treat pain or as an anesthetic. The drug has been around since the 1960’s but has become infamous over the past two decades due to the dramatic increase in overdose deaths attributed to its use. One reason fentanyl is so deadly is due to its potency. Fentanyl is 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger heroin; a fatal dose is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil.
Why is it a Growing Concern?
The fentanyl problem is a growing concern due to the large-scale production of the drug by unregulated manufacturers, like drug cartels. While the strength of fentanyl has long been concerning there has always been strict regulation. Unregulated production coupled with criminal distribution of fentanyl is exasperating the already rampant opioid epidemic.
Drug dealers produce pills that resemble prescription drugs and mix fentanyl into illicit street drugs to increase potency. Many individuals buy illicit street drugs laced with a lethal dose of fentanyl and don’t even know it. That is the scariest part about fentanyl, it could be anywhere!
In the past, drugs like heroin and cocaine were never safe but the risk of death was very minimal for someone who was experimenting in small amounts. This is no longer the case. Fentanyl changes everything because it requires caregivers to be extremely vigilant about there loved one’s drug use. Experimenting with drugs is no longer a phase or a rite of passage for today’s youth. It is a game of Russian roulette.
How to Talk to Your Adult Children about Fentanyl
Speaking to your adult children about fentanyl and other drugs should always begin with creating open communication; consider some of the following tips:
Keep the goal in mind and ask yourself why you want to speak to your child about fentanyl and drugs. The goal should be to help them understand the dangers of the drug and how it could potentially affect their children.
Be in the present to encourage open communication. Paying attention may seem obvious, but it’s easy to come across as uninterested in the conversation. Practice active listening. Remove distractions, make eye contact, and give them all your time.
Ask them questions and listen to their opinions. Like most grown adults, they may have had experiences or encounters with drugs and will have established their own ideas. It’s important to listen to these and do your best to correct any misinformation they have regarding fentanyl.
Give credit where credit is due; they may have become familiar with the risks and understand where these drugs are. This helps to build trust and more open communication.
Open communication also involves being clear and concise and even preparing beforehand. It’s also important to be mindful of non-verbal communication and your overall tone. The goal is to be informative, actively listen, answer questions, and be a reliable source of information.
Having Conversations with Grandchildren
Grandparents can help protect their grandkids against fentanyl and other drugs. You’re a role model, and your views can strongly affect how they think about drugs and fentanyl.
These conversations should be age-appropriate; consider some of the following tips:
Take advantage of teachable moments. Social media, television, and movies offer endless teachable moments for kids. This can lead to a talk about how drugs can harm their body and mind.
When speaking to children 8 to 12, for example, ask them what they’ve heard about drugs or fentanyl. Ask open-ended questions to ensure you can get an honest response. Research answers together and show them that you are listening.
Talking to teens can be a little different. Teens often face peer pressure. This could be friends or acquaintances who have tried drugs or alcohol. Ask them what they know and listen to their opinions. Speak to them about the consequences. Be clear and concise about boundaries and rules.
Avoid lecturing, threatening, or using scare tactics. Be a reliable source of factual information and be prepared to share your experiences.
It’s also important to help teach kids how to turn down drugs, manage peer pressure, and the different scenarios they may encounter. They need to have a warm, open family environment where they can speak about their feelings.
Tips for Recognizing Signs of Fentanyl Use
There are different signs to look for to recognize fentanyl use; these can include the following:
- Euphoria, depression, and confusion;
- Slowed heart rate and breathing, weakness, and trouble walking;
- Stiffness of muscles, dizziness, fainting, shaking, and slurred speech;
- Drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, pinpoint pupils;
- Hallucinations, dry mouth, loss of appetite, sleeping problems.
These signs are common with opioid use, so when someone is showing any of these symptoms it is red flag. Fentanyl maybe hidden in various drugs sold illegally, so even if the person isn’t using fentanyl they are at a high risk of exposure to the drug. It is important to intervene as it could prevent a tragedy from occurring.
Remember, unless a drug is prescribed by a licensed medical professional and dispensed by a legitimate pharmacy, you will never know if it is fake or legitimate.
Additional Fentanyl Resources
Below are some helpful articles that provide further education about fentanyl and talking to your loved ones. We also included helpful videos that you can watch with kids, teens or adults to help them better understand the threats associated with opioid drugs.
What Is a Drug?
This is a helpful video to watch with your grandchildren between the ages of 8-12.
Information on Opioids
This video is best to watch with teenagers to help them understand the dangers of opioids.
Protecting Children from Online Drug Dealers
This video is for adults only and illustrates the threats that exist online; it is great to share with your adult children.