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Early intervention is critical to preventing long-term addiction issues. Parents are often the “first responders” when it comes to helping their children avoid or overcome a substance use disorder. Other adults in a young person’s life, including coaches, teachers and mentors, can play a role, too.

Here are a few steps that can help parents and others prevent opioid addiction or intervene when misuse becomes a problem.

Talk to the prescribing provider. If your teen has acute pain from an injury or following surgery, ask your provider about non-opioid pain relievers. If an opioid medication is recommended, know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) usually recommend a 3-day supply.1

Address the issue. Talk to your kids openly and honestly about the dangers of opioid misuse. Make sure all medications in your home are stored safely and securely. Prescription opioids come in a variety of types and dosages, from codeine to fentanyl. It’s important to become familiar with the various medications that fall into the opioid category. View an extended list.

Understand the risks. Many teens and young adults first use opioids prescribed by their doctor after a common medical issue, such as an injury or wisdom tooth surgery. Talk to your provider about whether your child truly needs to take opioids or if there are lower-risk options.

Spot the signs. Common indicators of substance use include general changes in mood and behavior. A person who is actively misusing opioids may seem drowsy and disoriented. Movements may be slowed and speech might be slurred. They may seem to fall asleep while sitting or even standing.

Drug paraphernalia that could indicate heroin use includes vials, needles, rubber tubing and spoons that are bent or burned on the bottom.

Find appropriate support. Opioid dependency is a chronic condition that requires medical intervention. If your child needs help, look for a treatment program that incorporates medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Learn more about effective treatment for OUD.

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  1. Dowell D, Haegerich TM, Chou R. CDC guideline for prescribing opioids for chronic pain — United States, 2016. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2016;65 (No. RR-1):1–49.