The opioid crisis affects everyone in the United States. Children face not only the risk of becoming addicts, but are often the victims of their parents’ misuse of prescription drugs. In 2016, over 270,000 children were placed in foster care because of drug abuse by a parent. Every 25 minutes, a child enters the world already suffering from withdrawal due to their mother’s addiction. Prevention begins with education. A variety of tools and ideas exist for school systems that want to include the educational programs in their K-12 classrooms. The classes alone will not solve the problem but can become a part of the solution.
Start the Discussion
Parents sometimes hesitate to discuss drug use with children because they believe their children are too young. Studies show that nearly 4 percent of American children between the ages of 12-17 reported misuse of opioids in the prior 12 months. Parents that wait until their children reach high school may already be too late.
Schools can create programs that educate and entertain using age-appropriate lessons. The classes open the opportunity for parents to continue the discussion at home. Once familiar with the topic, parents can discuss their expectations as they would any other issue with their children.
Offer Support Systems
Children do not always know where to go for the help they need. Drug misuse can cause children to fear they will get in trouble at home or with the police. The school can offer a judgment-free atmosphere. School systems are also a reliable advocate for children living in homes with parents suffering from opioid addictions. The counselors and teachers can work to connect the family to the resources they need before it is too late.
Identify Potential Risks
Finally, schools can also identify children who present a higher than normal risk for opioid use. The factors could include social isolation, educational struggles, or difficult home life. Injuries that cause the children to receive a prescription or have a parent on medication can make it easier for children to access the drugs.
Schools cannot solve the opioid crisis alone. Community organizations, parents, neighbors, and the medical community need to become a part of the solution. Everyone working together can help to reduce the frightening statistics for opioid abuse.