How To Talk To Your Kids About Fentanyl

Talking with kids: Explain the reality

An effective conversation with youth about fentanyl will focus on listening and facts, not judgment. We know that youth want the adults in their lives to trust them with information and support them in making decisions. Simply telling kids “don’t do drugs” may cause those most at risk to just tune out.

Listen first: Ask your teen non-judgmental questions. Is fentanyl something that you’ve heard about on the news, or at school? What have you heard? Do you think the risks are exaggerated? Where do you think teens your age are likely to start using pills and why? Even if teens seem to tune you out, continue to provide non-judgmental support and frequent conversations. Research tells us that parents and supportive influential adults can and do make a difference in whether a youth will engage in at-risk behaviors.
It’s also an opportunity to provide factual information to teens. Teens need to know that fentanyl-laced drugs are widespread, and that the first dose can be deadly.

Fentanyl-laced pills look identical to pills prescribed by doctors. In King County, fentanyl is most commonly seen in blue, greenish, or pale-colored counterfeit pills, often marked as “M30.” They are often called blues, M-30s, percs (because legitimate pills with the same markings are named Percocet), or other names. The fentanyl in these drugs is often produced on the illicit market. It is not medical grade, and it is not regulated for safety.

Be clear about the risk

An amount of fentanyl the size of two grains of salt is enough to cause a fatal overdose. It’s tasteless, odorless, and impossible to see: There’s no way to know by looking at a pill or powder whether it contains a potentially lethal amount of fentanyl.

It’s helpful for teens to know that the person selling or sharing the drugs may not even know the pills contain fentanyl. The danger is not limited to drugs bought from a stranger on the street or online. Adults should dispel the myth that drugs from “trusted sources,” including friends or known dealers, are safe. They are not. Pills and powders from any source (besides a medical provider or pharmacy) should be assumed to contain this deadly ingredient, making every dose a risk.


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