It is important for parents, caregivers and professionals who work with youth be aware of the risks of drugs, including overdose.  This section provides some tips for parents and professionals to start conversations with youth. 

Why do youth use drugs? 

Youth use drugs for different reasons, including:

  • Curiosity
  • To escape from emotional pain
  • To relate to others better
  • Low self-esteem
  • Because substance use is happening at home

What are the signs of drug use in youth?

It is also important for parents/teachers to know what to look for in their child that might indicate they are using substances. This might include:

  • Problems at school
  • Secrecy about possessions and activities
  • Social media posts about drugs
  • Finding drug paraphernalia such as pipes, pills, medicine that you didn’t buy for them (e.g. cough medicine), rags and paper bags for inhalants
  • Missing prescription drugs from your home or a grandparent’s home

Tips for teachers and other professionals working with young people

Use a trauma-informed approach to discuss drugs and drug overdoses. This means recognizing trauma and being sensitive to its dynamics. Some youth may be more affected by these materials than others. For example, some youth may have witnessed family or friends using substances or may use substance themselves. Youth who have suffered recent losses or who are coping with stress may be interested in overdose materials and education.

  • Alberta Education has created a video on trauma and how to provide trauma-informed education in schools.  

Use the news. You can use an external reference like a TV show or a news clip to start the conversation with youth. Ask about concerns or worries they have.

Health Canada has developed resources and materials to help start the conversation with youth. Opioids, overdose prevention, and the Good Samaritan Act are included in the topics.

The Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council has developed a video explaining the Good Samaritan Act and the importance of calling 911 in an overdose emergency.

Tips for Parents, Caregivers and Guardians

How do parents/caregivers have conversations with their children about drugs?

  • It is important to have supportive conversations. Start these conversations early and be willing to talk about drugs and other difficult topics
  • Be calm even if you are worried
  • Show your child they are safe to tell you when they are concerned or need help
  • Allow your child to express thoughts even if they are different from your own

What should parents tell their children?

  • Overdose does not discriminate – it can happen to anyone’s family
  • We need to make sure that youth and everyone in our community know about the harms of drug use
  • Talk about the signs and symptoms of overdose and what to do in an overdose situation
  • Remind youth that it is safe to call 911 in an overdose situation. The Good Samaritan Law protects from prosecution due to simple drug possession charges for anyone who calls 911 in an overdose emergency
  • Take time to make a safety plan:
    • Develop a plan with your child about what to do if they need help. Let them know their safety is most important
    • If you think your child may use drugs or alcohol or be in situations where drugs are being used, talk to them about the importance of staying with a friend to help keep each other safe
  • Talk about how opioids can be mixed in with other drugs. Fentanyl has been found in drugs that you can swallow, smoke and inject
  • If you think your child is using substances, naloxone  is an important tool for preventing a fatal opioid overdose.

Links and resources

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