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Real Talk: Talking to teens about drugs and Narcan

A mom's perspective

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Experts suggest that talking with teens about drugs, alcohol and sex should actually begin before the teen years. Establishing open lines of communication is key to being able to talk about such complicated topics.

It's not only about your child
I talk to my children about the dangers of taking drugs, but I have also talked with them about how to deal with a friend taking drugs. I make sure they know that taking care of the person is more important than worrying about getting in trouble. Safety always comes first.

The open lines of communication are key so that they understand they can help their friends without getting in trouble. Teens try to handle big problems by themselves to protect each other from the authorities or repercussions. We talk about the laws that protect those who help someone who is drunk or has overdosed.

RELATED: 4 conversations to have with your daughter

The Good Samaritan & Immunity Law in NY

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures website, “To encourage people to seek out medical attention for an overdose or for follow-up care after naloxone has been administered, 40 states and the District of Columbia have enacted some form of a Good Samaritan or 911 drug immunity law. These laws generally provide immunity from arrest, charge or prosecution for certain controlled substance possession and paraphernalia offenses when a person who is either experiencing an opiate-related overdose or observing one calls 911 for assistance or seeks medical attention. State laws are also increasingly providing immunity from violations of pretrial, probation or parole conditions and violations of protection or restraining orders.”

Having a plan can save a life
Naloxone or Narcan can temporarily revive those with a drug overdose. Patients need healthcare assistance after taking the drug even if they look revived and well. The Good Samaritan and Immunity laws protect those who call for help from being prosecuted. This is an important piece of any conversation, so that teens do not hesitate to take action. Quick reaction is often the difference between life and death.

Teens also need to know how to handle the situation without panicking. That is why they need a plan before something goes wrong. When I talk with my teens, I talk to them about handling all sorts of emergency situations. I have compared a plan for caring for a friend with a drug overdose with knowing where the fire exits are in a new building. A plan before an emergency is always a good idea.

Opening the lines of communication is key
Teens need to talk about tough situations regularly to make it feel less scary if something happens. My teens often call me when a situation is complicated. I have told them in emergency situations they need to call 911 first and then they can be in touch with me. Moments count.

I also review questions emergency workers may ask. My teens may not know all the answers and I tell them that is okay too, they just need to know what they may be asked so it does not make them more nervous.

We review what may happen by discussing some questions that may be asked. Has the overdosed person had drug issues in the past? Do they carry their own Narcan which can be administered while waiting for emergency personnel? Is Narcan available nearby (school nurse). Does the caller know what drug was taken and possibly how much?

Throughout the question process, I reassure that knowledge is helpful in this situation. It will not get the caller in trouble.

My teens have actually been the ones to tell me that they learned that If someone is recovering from drug addiction an overdose can occur more easily because the person recovering does not have the same tolerance after rehab. If that person does have a relapse and takes the same dose as before rehab an overdose often recurs.

Every conversation ends with one last reminder—saving a life comes first. I will not take that event to make a judgement or punish. They have immunity with me too.

Patrice Athanasidy is a mother of 3 from Westchester.

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