Heroin is a highly dangerous, highly addictive, illicit opioid drug substance. Despite this, its use has become nothing short of epidemic in communities in every state across the country, including among teenagers. In many cases, parents of heroin addicts aren’t even aware of the problem until it is quite advanced, and they rarely know what to do about it when they do find out it is occurring. Fortunately, there are things that parents can do to help prevent their teenager from ever even turning to heroin use in the first place.
Preventing Heroin Abuse Among Teens
From the first moment when they hold their newborn baby in their arms, most parents decide that they will always be willing to do anything and everything necessary to keep their child safe. However, this can become an increasingly tricky proposition as children grow into adolescence and the teenage years, and encounter more and more complex and dangerous situations, like drug use.
Many parents assume, and hope, that their child will never be even remotely interested in pursuing drug use. They may feel that if their teenager is raised in a loving, supportive home, they will grow up healthy, happy and well–with a strong sense of values and integrity that protects them from curiosity about drugs. Unfortunately, even teenagers who have been raised in stable, loving households and appear in every way to be very happy can yet fall victim to the pull of drug substances. Parents therefore need to take proactive measures to keep their teenagers off drugs–especially dangerous drugs like heroin.
The first thing that parents need to do in order to keep their teenagers off heroin is educate themselves thoroughly in this drug, why it used, how it affects the individual, and what must be done in order to resolve dependence and addiction. Heroin use often begins through the use of prescription painkillers–legal opioid medications that are used illegally for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the painkilling and euphoric effects they produce. Prescription opioids can be obtained in a variety of ways, including legally through a doctor’s prescription, the family medicine cabinet, a friend or even on the street from dealers. However they are obtained and used, the fact is that even a single dose can set one on the path toward dependence and addiction.
When an individual uses opioids, these drug substances enter their bloodstream and quickly make their way to opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord and digestive tract, where they bond to these receptors. This can reduce or even eliminate the body’s ability to communicate pain, which is why they are used in the medical field for pain relief. They can also influence the centers in the brain that have to do with pleasure and reward, stimulating feelings of euphoria. Whether the individual desires pain relief or euphoria or both, they often determine after a single dose of opioids whether continuing to take them is beneficial.
Some short-term effects of opioid use include drowsiness, slowed respiration, constipation, unconsciousness, nausea and even coma. Unfortunately, many individuals choose to deal with these problems by taking even more opioids, which can obviously exacerbate these effects. After some time, the body can become physically dependent upon opioids, punishing a reduction or elimination of their use with restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting and cold flashes with goose bumps. Even if an individual determines that opioids are harming their health and life, they are often more interested in continuing their use than in dealing with uncomfortable and sometimes even painful withdrawal symptoms.
When an individual becomes dependent upon opioids and desperate to maintain their use, they may look for cheaper, easier solutions that provide even better results. This is the point at which many individuals turn to heroin use. It is often easier to obtain and cheaper than prescription opioids, and can provide more satisfying highs. Unfortunately, it is also way more dangerous–especially since there is no way to know what specific heroin manufacturers are using to cut the drug with. One single hit of heroin laced with fentanyl, for example, can be fatal, and the user simply won’t know until it’s too late–if ever.
Once parents themselves understand the truth about opioids and heroin, they can sit down with their teenager and have an open, frank and truthful discussion with them. It is vital that they be willing to listen to their teenager–and any reasons they may express for considering opioid or heroin use. Emotionally attacking their view may result in exactly the opposite of what one intends–a rebellious teenager who intends to try heroin anyway. Instead, recognize that they simply don’t understand, and keep giving them factual information (provided through reputable sources so they don’t have to just “take your word”) until they do, and are able to make the wise decision and abstain from all drug, opioid and heroin use.