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Know the signs of hard drug use



Fentanyl deaths have become a health emergency

Know the signs of hard drug use


Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan declared a public health emergency in relation to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and has led to a recent spike in fatalities. For the period January through July, opioid-related deaths in the county increased 171 percent, compared to the same period in 2019.

To combat this crisis, Ulster County's Healing Communities Study (HEAL) team will be partnering with the Ulster County's Sheriff's office to create a spike alert communications plan. Treatment providers will receive real-time updates when there is a spike of overdoses, fatal or nonfatal, in a 24-hour period, suggesting there might be a bad batch of fentanyl-laced drugs in circulation. Through the treatment community and media, a warning can be conveyed to people who are at risk of overdosing. Spike alerts will include information on how to obtain Narcan, treatment, and harm-reduction supplies. 

A public education campaign, on social media and radio PSAs, will make the public aware of the risks and presence of fentanyl. Parents should know warning signs of opioid use. Get help for your teen if you observe the following:

  • Confusion
  • Constricted pupils
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shallow or restricted breathing
  • Cool or clammy skin
  • Extreme sleepiness or inability to wake up
  • Intermittent loss of consciousness

The Addiction Center website encourages parents to initiate a conversation with their children if they suspect drug use. If you use a compassionate tone, simply asking, “Have you been using drugs or alcohol?” or “Has anyone offered you drugs recently?” can be enough to get the conversation started.

Don’t overreact if your teen confesses to using drugs. Hysteria or lashing out can prevent them from opening up about their experience. Conversation is important to determine if their drug use was a one-time event or if it’s becoming a problem. Explain how you care about your child and their future. Teens who feel supported and loved are more likely to stop experimenting with drugs or seek help if they have an addiction.

If a teen denies using drugs but the parent suspects untruthfulness, a home drug test or help from a therapist, pediatrician, or addiction specialist can help diagnose a teen drug problem.



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