Kansas City police officers have been raising the alarm since late February, and it’s a message that parents need to hear loud and clear: Fentanyl-laced pills are causing overdoses in teens in the Northland and around the Metro. Before you think, “not my child,” pause for a moment. Many of these deadly counterfeit pills are being sold over Snapchat and other apps popular with teens. To teens, these are seemingly harmless transactions for a “pain pill.” But they could lead, and have led, to unimaginably tragic consequences.
Take this growing issue seriously, and have specific conversations about it in your house. As a school social worker, I am hearing about this over and over. It is happening here and it is real.
Not sure what to say? Emphasize to your kids to never, ever take a pill from anyone or anywhere that isn’t prescribed to them by a doctor or out of its original container. Two-thirds of teens and young adults who report misuse of prescription medicine are buying or getting it from friends, family, and acquaintances. Too many teens have the false perception that “medicine is safe, medicine can’t hurt me.” As caring adults, parents, and guardians, it falls to us to let our teens know the very real dangers of misusing prescription pills. Let your kids know where you stand.
Let them know you will help them if they are seeking relief from anxiety or depression. Discuss the steps to legally and safely obtain appropriate medications from a doctor, if needed. Be firm that self-prescribing can be deadly, and that your child should never take any pills not prescribed to them by a doctor. Assure your child that their mental wellbeing is a priority and then make a plan to get help together. They need to hear from caring adults that they have options for relief other than taking matters into their own hands.
Practice what to say if they are offered something. These roleplays let your child know you support them and help give them confidence if a situation arises where they need to say “no.” You can also work with your teen to come up with a code word to text you if they feel like they need your help to get out of an unsafe situation.
They might groan at you. Have these conversations anyway.
Kim Downs is a lifelong Kansas City North resident and has been a licensed school social worker in the area for nearly 20 years. She is passionate about removing barriers to learning and is an agent of support to students and families. She enjoys a good hike in the mountains, wandering a museum, traveling, and spending time with her family.