YOUNG MINDS: No time to ‘scare them straight’

Drugs discussions are needed in order to save young lives

  • Oct. 20, 2016 4:00 p.m.

Peace Arch News publishes a monthly column for the White Rock-South Surrey Division of Family Practice addressing issues surrounding youth mental health.

In this article, George Passmore addresses an all-too-deadly problem.

It seems like for each generation of parents, some new drug comes along that heightens their fear of the threat drugs can pose to the safety of their adolescent children.

Now, along comes fentanyl; it’s odourless, tasteless, featureless and a sprinkle can be fatal.

In the first nine months of this year, fentanyl killed nearly 500 British Columbians, an increase of almost 62 per cent over 2015 that prompted a public-health emergency.

So far this year, Fraser Health Emergency departments have seen 95 suspected overdoses from South Surrey and White Rock, 65 of those at Peace Arch Hospital.

This drug is 50 to 100 times more toxic than morphine. Many overdoses occur when other substances such as cocaine, Molly (MDMA or ecstasy) or cannabis contain it. Even if someone trusts their dealer, there is no true quality control; cross-contamination can happen anywhere in the distribution chain.

Now carfentanyl, more potent still, appears to be increasing across Canada.

Like all parents, I desperately want my three children and their friends to avoid this threat.

The typical tactic would be to lay out the facts about how deadly fentanyl is and “scare them straight” so they will “just say no.”

But research and parents’ own experience tell us that simply providing drug education or taking a “just say no” approach doesn’t work and can even backfire. Young people can look around and see that most of their peers who abuse substances do so without dire consequences. When kids see that their reality doesn’t match Mom and Dad’s messages, they can lose faith in us.

So let’s move beyond right/wrong, good/bad and obey/punish.

As children approach adolescence, we can use the headlines to ask them about what they see, hear and know about various substances, including fentanyl.

We can remember that most youth emerge from adolescence without experiencing problematic substance use.

We can respect that youth are experts in their own culture.

We can show genuine interest in their lives. We can encourage our teenaged kids to watch out for their friends’ well-being and to notice when substance use is escalating.

We can move beyond wishing they never take drugs to talking about harm reduction.

While this last approach can feel scary, it’s possible to talk about substance use in a way that doesn’t feel like it is encouraging risky behaviours, but acknowledges it as a part of society.

For example, we can ask youth about the concerns they share with friends about drugs and what they do to keep each other safe.

If we know our kids are drug active, we can share tips from Fraser Health on preventing overdose, such as not using alone, knowing one’s tolerance and going slowly when using. We can discuss how to recognize the signs of an overdose and how to respond, including considering when to carry Naloxone, the opiate overdose equivalent of an EpiPen.

Talking about drugs early is an even better idea.

What can make a difference later is being in tune with children while they are little, keeping a stream of conversations going on about substances – and anything else they are curious about – that evolve as they grow.

We can pay attention to what our children have to say and build their resilience by fostering a sense of belonging and encouraging healthy standards for themselves.

When it comes to responding to the threats of fentanyl, there is no quick fix. Parents’ love – even more than their fear – can be a powerful place to start.

• Parents can learn more about youth and drugs, mental health and social media at a Conversation Café on Oct. 25 from 6:30-8:30 p.m.at Semiahmoo Secondary. Please RSVP smith_nancy@surreysafeschools.ca

If you are a parent concerned about a substance-active youth, Sources Substance Use offers a seven-session facilitated group called Recognizing Resilience, beginning Nov. 3. Register by calling 604-538-2522.

Individual, family and group counselling and referrals to residential treatment are also available at Sources. Towardtheheart.com and knowyoursource.ca are resources on how to stay safe.

George Passmore is manager of counselling and substance-use services at Sources Community Resources and a member of the White-Rock-South Surrey Local Action Team, one of 64 working as part of a provincial Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative funded by Doctors of BC and the B.C. government.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A proposed multi-family, multi-building development in east White Rock was the subject of a public hearing Monday evening. (City of White Rock image)
Pros and cons of White Rock housing development debated at virtual public hearing

Affordable housing need, traffic concerns among reasons cited for and against Beachway project

Photo: Surrey RCMP
Surrey RCMP arrests two boys, age 16, during dial-a-dope investigation in Whalley

Sergeant Elenore Sturko said one boy is ‘alleged to have been in possession of a loaded handgun at the time of his arrest’

The new Phoenix Flame BBQ truck serves as a “Mobile Community Kitchen” in the Surrey area. (Photo: phoenixsociety.com)
New ‘Phoenix Flame BBQ’ truck now mobile with food for Surrey’s ‘hard-to-reach populations’

Also launched: Another Surrey Honda Raffle to help the Surrey-based agency and others

Teachers at Maple Green Elementary in Surrey stage a walk-in before school on Wednesday (March 3, 2021), as Fraser Health continues to announce variant exposure cases at Surrey schools throughout the district. (Submitted photo: Julia MacRae)
Surrey Teachers’ Association calls for district-specific COVID-19 safety measures

STA holds third and fourth walk-ins after multiple COVID-19 variant exposures

A memorial of flowers, notes and photos grew quickly on the median adjacent to where Paul Prestbakmo died on Aug. 16. (Tracy Holmes photo)
Witness in South Surrey murder trial says he saw Paul Prestbakmo get stabbed

Defence questions difference between witness’ statements to police, testimony

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

Emergency crews are on scene at Walnut Grove Secondary School after a report of a bomb threat at Walnut Grove Secondary School on March 3, 2021. The school was safely evacuated. (Shane MacKichan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
UPDATE: Bomb threat forces evacuation of Langley high school

Police asked the public to avoid 88th Avenue and Walnut Grove Drive

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated

Canada set to receive more than 6M COVID-19 vaccine dose than initially expected, by end of March

Most Read