WASHINGTON (7News) — A pain management specialist and father is urging parents to talk to their children about the accessibility and dangers of opioids as the District’s rate of overdose deaths from fentanyl ranks second in the country.
Dr. Gregory Khan-Arthur, regional director for Opioid Management and Pain Programing at Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group, suggests bringing up the topic calmly and being open to questions adolescents and teens might have. It’s also an opportunity to discuss ways to avoid being pressured to try any drug, as many substances are laced with deadly amounts of fentanyl.
Watch the full interview below:
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The District, Maryland and Virginia rank second, sixth and eighteenth, respectively when it comes to the highest rates of overdose deaths from illicitly manufactured fentanyl. The latest data from the CDC’s State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System (SUDORS), includes reports from 32 states and the District of Columbia for the year 2021.
Nearly 107,000 people in the United States died from drug overdoses in 2021. Synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl) accounted for 70,601 of those overdoses, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
More kids are dying from opioid-related deaths, according to a March 2023 study published in the journal Pediatrics. The American Academy of Pediatrics identifies opioids as the most common substance that leads to fatal poisoning among young children.
“It’s frightening, as a father myself having young children, that it’s even out there and that children, usually, these days are starting to experiment with illicit substances earlier and earlier as early as 12 years old and younger in some places,” said Dr. Khan-Arthur.
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Dr. Khan-Arthur’s tips for talking to your kids:
“It’s heartbreaking to see somebody’s life cut short because kids will do what kids will do. Sometimes they’ll experiment; they are prone to peer pressure,” said Dr. Khan-Arthur.
What if your child shares incidents with drug use?
“The first thing I would say is, ‘Thank you. Thank you for sharing that with me. It’s so very important that you trust me and that you came to me with that information.’ Make them aware that they did the right thing, that you’re there to help them no matter what,” he said.
Dr. Khan-Arthur said the next thing to do is to steer the conversation to talk about values.
“What they’re into and how using drugs can detract from that or prevent that. So, if you know your kid wants to be an astronaut, tie that drug use to that value and say, ‘You know, these drugs if you take them can really rob you of the opportunity to become that astronaut or that doctor or that lawyer you want to be.’ Tie it to something that’s aspirational to them, something that they value.”