How to talk to your kids about fentanyl
You can't see, smell, or taste fentanyl, so how can you protect your kids from it? Talk to them.
What To Cover
Ask your kids what they've heard about fentanyl.
If they mention specific information, is it accurate? Check the facts.
Explain that knowing about fentanyl helps people stay safe.
Let your kids know that because fentanyl is so dangerous, the safest thing they can do is not use drugs. Even if your kids aren't likely to use drugs, they could use this information to help a friend.
Cover the basics.
Fentanyl is very common — and deadly. It's used to make fake prescription pills that look like Adderall, OxyContin, Percocet, Xanax, and other drugs, but are much more dangerous.
Powdered drugs are also often laced with fentanyl. Fentanyl is usually hidden in other drugs, so people may not know they’re taking it. This raises their risk of an overdose.
Warn them about fake prescription pills.
Urge your kids to only take pills that have been prescribed to them. Prescription pills bought online are often fakes made with fentanyl. Even a pill from a friend may not be safe.
Share the signs of an overdose.
The most common signs that someone is overdosing are:
Unable to talk
Pale, gray, or bluish skin, lips, or nails
Cold or clammy skin
Breathing is very slow or has stopped
Extremely sleepy or passing out
Snoring, choking, or gurgling sounds
Explain what to do if they witness an overdose.
If someone shows signs of an overdose, it’s important to take action right away.
Call 911, and tell them someone is unresponsive.
If you have naloxone, use it.
Try to keep the person awake and breathing.
If the person isn’t breathing, do rescue breathing or CPR if you know it.
Lay the person on their side to prevent choking.
Stay with them. When paramedics arrive, tell them what you know.
- Instead of waiting for the "right" moment, bring up the topic of fentanyl anytime.
- Talking to your kids about fentanyl helps keep them safe. It doesn’t make them more likely to try drugs.
- Be open, honest, and empathetic. Tell your kids what you found surprising or scary about fentanyl.
- Keep the conversation going. Instead of trying to say everything at once, have multiple short talks.
- Check in with your child about their mental health on a regular basis. Encourage them to let you know if they are struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, or pain, so you can help.
Is Your Child Using Drugs?
If you know or think that your child is taking drugs, talk to them about harm reduction strategies like naloxone and fentanyl test strips.
For guidance on how to help your child, talk to a pediatrician or mental health professional. Use these resources to find mental health and drug treatment support.
QUESTIONS KIDS MAY HAVE ABOUT FENTANYL
Why is fentanyl worse than other drugs?
It’s up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. 2 mg of fentanyl is considered a lethal dose. That's about the size of a few grains of sand.
Illegal fentanyl is made by people who aren’t scientists or chemists, and there is no quality control. The amount of fentanyl in an illegal drug or counterfeit prescription pill is inconsistent and may be fatal.
Could I die from touching fentanyl?
No. This is a myth. You can't overdose by touching fentanyl or being near it. If you're with someone who overdoses, you’re not in danger. Give them naloxone if you have it, and call 911 right away.
What does fentanyl do to the body?
Fentanyl binds to opioid receptors in the brain that control pain and emotions. (Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse) When someone takes too much fentanyl, their breathing gets very slow or stops, before they even realize what's happening. (Source: The Harvard Gazette) This is what makes it deadly.
If fentanyl is so dangerous, why would anybody take it?
People take drugs for all sorts of reasons. Kids may hear that a prescription pill could help them focus or relax and want to try it, even if they don't normally use drugs. If they buy the pill online, it’s likely a fake made with fentanyl. People who buy these pills often take fentanyl without realizing it.
Why do illegal drug manufacturers mix fentanyl into their drugs?
They want to make more money. Fentanyl is strong and cheap to manufacture, so they mix it into other drugs to stretch their supply. This makes every dose a gamble, because the people taking the drugs have no idea how much fentanyl they're getting.