Talking to Youth
There is a public health emergency regarding the increased illegal drug overdoses in British Columbia. All parts of society have been affected. Overdoses are increasingly linked with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be fatal when obtained illegally, even in a few grains. Fentanyl has been detected in: cocaine, crack, MDMA (ecstasy), crystal meth, heroin, fake oxy, and fake Percocet.
It’s important that youth rely on accurate information: not just what they may hear in the media or by word-of-mouth. It is critical they understand that overdoses do not discriminate. With any drug use, serious harm or death is a very real possibility every time.
Substance use can affect young people's general health, physical growth, and emotional and social development. It can also change how well they make decisions, how well they think, and how quickly they can react. Using substances can make it hard for young people to control their actions. For some young people, alcohol or other drug use may turn into a substance use problem.
Role of parents, teachers and supportive adults
Research shows that youth engage in less substance use when they have higher self-esteem, supportive relationships with adults (e.g., parents, teachers, family members and other professionals) and positive role models. Talk respectfully with the youth in your life about the facts and risks of using substances in a non-judgemental and sensitive way.
Show strong emphasis on how difficult it is to know if fentanyl is present in illegal drugs, and its lethal power if accidentally consumed.
Talking to youth
Parents can play a key part in teaching their children about substance use by talking honestly and openly about the effects of substances and giving answers they’ll understand.
Build positive connections and resilience for your children through honest and respectful conversations. Read tips and examples of conversation starters and learn about the role of modelling healthy habits, on HealthLink BC.
Here are a few other tips that might be helpful for you to begin the discussion with your child:
- Educate yourself so you can answer questions. If you don’t know the answers, offer to look for them together.
- Become informed. Learn about the substances commonly used by young people. Find out how the substances work, what their street names are, and the signs of being under the influence.
- Be a good listener. Give your kids room to participate and ask questions. Respect their opinion.
- Stick to the facts. Avoid preaching, scare tactics and exaggeration. Research shows these tactics do not work, and may actually lead to a loss of trust.
- Look for natural opportunities to discuss substance use and decision-making, including stories in the news and social media.
- Be open and respectful. Ask questions about what they’re hearing, seeing or have learned. Then, listen. Talk about why people use substances and the potential consequences.
- Focus on your heartfelt concerns for their safety and a deep regard for their wellness (in contrast to right/wrong, good/bad, obey/punish). Emphasize your deep caring and commitment to understand in contrast to ‘setting them straight’.
For more information on overdose and tips for talking to youth, check out Fraser Health’s toolkit, and learn more from these useful resources:
Tips on talking to youth
- Healthy Families BC: Tricky conversations
- Healthy Families BC: Teen behaviour section and alcohol sense videos
- Health Link BC: Alcohol & drug use in young people
- Here to Help: Guidebook for parents
- Health Canada: Talking with teenagers about drugs
Other Parenting and Youth Resources
- HealthLink BC: call 8-1-1, from anywhere in B.C. to speak to a nurse 24 hours a day.
- Substance use services and treatment support
- Fraser Health: trauma-informed approach
- BC Centre for Disease Control: Toward the heart
- Kelty Mental Health Resource Center: Substance Use
- Mind Check: Alcohol and Other Drugs
- Here to Help: You and Substance Use (PDF)
- iMinds: Art of Motivation