In their fentanyl and opioid presentation on Tuesday, May 4 at St. John Catholic High School in Perth, both Jessica Wigle and Kelly Munroe agreed that knowledge of the drug and what to do is crucial in preventing deaths.
The Public Health nurses with Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit spoke to about 30 parents and some teens about the drugs, where to get naloxone kits, what to do in the event of an overdose, and how to talk to your teens.
Opioids treat pain. There are three categories of prescription (legal) opioids – naturally occurring, semi-synthetic and synthetic i.e. fentanyl.
Illicit fentanyl is a non-prescription opioid sold on the streets and may be laced with or substituted for other drugs. Just a few small grains can be deadly.
In a crisis, the prescription medicine narcan/naloxone blocks the effects of opioids and “temporarily removes opioids from receptor sites,” according to Wigle’s presentation.
Naloxone is available, free, in a nasal spray kit from Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit with no health card; naloxone injectable kits are available, free, from local pharmacies with a health card.
Parents and teens should know overdose signs and symptoms:
- slow, erratic breathing (or not at all),
- blue fingernails and/or lips,
- limp body,
- snoring or gurgling sounds,
- loss of consciousness, and
- unresponsive to stimuli and pinpoint pupils.
- Most imperative, to prevent death and get help, call 911.
Wigle didn’t belabour the point, but she did present facts: opioids are the third leading cause of death in Ontario; Canada is the second leading consumer of opioids in the world. In Ontario there has been a 463 per cent increase in opioid deaths between 2000 and 2013.
Munroe works with teens daily; teenhood is an experimenting time, she says. Recent studies now show that brains continue to develop and mature up to the age of 30, so that emotions for teenagers are intensely felt and they tend to live in the moment. They are “wired for short-term rewards,” she says.
She offered some ideas to parents, grandparents and significant people in teenagers’ lives: be a positive role model. “Kids look up to us. They follow our values and behaviour. We are a key influence in their lives,” Munroe said.
Here are some of the useful advice she provided to help parents and other adults better connect with teens:
- Communicate openly and effectively. “Just regular everyday conversations are very valuable,” she said.
- Make them feel valued and respected. Say thank-you. Point out things they do well.
- Be a safe sounding board.
- Ask about interests and passions. Be curious but not nosy.
- Ask if they want advice – don’t give it if they don’t.
- Understand mistakes happen and work through solutions.
- Walk outside with them – nature is a powerful stress reliever.
“Give your kids a good tool box to work with, show you care,” she concluded.