Mother and Daughter Talking

The Opioid Epidemic

What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids

By this time, most people know that we are in the midst of a drug-related disaster in this country. Overdose is the number one cause of death among people younger than 50 in the United States. In New Orleans, drug overdoses doubled from 2015 to 2016, and 80 percent of those cases involved opioids, according to the Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office.

Various factors account for the opioid epidemic. The abundance of illegal drugs such as fentanyl and the over prescription of pain medication are leading factors that contribute to the problem, along with social factors such as the economy. Many addicts start with prescribed pain medication and then move on to cheaper heroin and fentanyl. Carfentanil is a concentrated, highly toxic, synthetic drug that is marketed as heroin or fentanyl. It only takes ingestion of a few grains the size of salt for this drug to be deadly.

What parents and all of us need to embrace is that victims of this epidemic do not have a specific face. Bored teens from middle-class families, athletic students who have been prescribed pain meds and the typical thrill seeker are all at risk. We also must recognize how available and abundant opioid pain medication is in our homes, at school, at parties and on the street. We must assume that many of our children will be exposed to opioids.


Here’s how parents can help:         

Finally, it’s important for all of us to recognize that drug addiction is a brain problem not a moral failing. Some people are more prone to addition than others. The over availability and use of opioids will be with us for a while. It is time to be maximally proactive.


Pat Blackwell, Ph.D., is a developmental psychologist in practice at Pelts Kirkhart & Associates. 504.581.3933.

For more articles by Pat Blackwell, click here.

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