One of the most alarming trends in the rising amount of drug overdose is the increase of deaths among young people. Middle-schoolers, typically aged 10-14, are experiencing higher rates of drug overdose than ever before, due to the presence of fentanyl in recreational drugs. David Livingston, LMFT, Clinical Director, Domus Retreat and Dwight Hurst, LPC, discuss this growing danger, the presence of social media in drug use, and how open communication and dialogue with your children are vital in reducing these deaths.
Episode 36: Youth & Social Media — Speaking with Teens and Young Adults about Fentanyl Dangers
Dwight Hurst, LPC: Hello everyone. Welcome back to a podcast to answer your questions on addiction, recovery and mental health by Waismann Method Opioid Treatment Specialists and Rapid Detox Center. We’ve been talking about the subject of overdose and with some of the issues of fentanyl coming into the United States. And we’ve got an interesting angle that’s also very, very scary and very, very tragic to talk about that. It’s also very, very important. There has been such a big uptick in younger people getting involved with this and seeing overdose even among kids in middle school. This is traditionally kids age 10 to 14 here in the US. And I don’t know the age breakdowns or what they call middle school and all other countries, but I know that in the U.S. we’ve seen an increase, a huge increase with kids even that young who are getting into overdose deaths. David Livingston and I are going to be talking about this today. Clare, unfortunately, was not able to join us today, but we’re going to be digging into this topic. And right as we were getting ready to record, David and I were just comparing notes. I would say your considerable expertise on social media. David, how would you how did you describe that to me?
David Livingston, LMFT: My considerable expertise comes from everybody but myself in terms of social media, particularly my kids and family members. But that said, you know, look, it’s all just a form of communication and information. And I know enough to know how things work. Right. But I’ll leave it at that.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: An interesting thing to see how technology will facilitate these things, which it always has ever since we I don’t know, the first phone got plugged in. The first phone call was, of course, what Alexander Graham Bell or whoever. And then the second one was about people scheduling a drug deal. No, that’s not probably true. That’s not historically accurate. But, you know, pretty soon things are used for things that people want to use them for. And so people who are trying to spread opiate use and who are trying to sell drugs, they’re going to use what’s available. And there’s quite a bit going on with social media and how that’s affecting it. Interestingly enough, I just barely had this conversation recently with my kids. Do you know the stuff that’s going around? Do you know what fentanyl is and do you know what this is? And that even if you were going to misbehave, so to speak, even if you were going to do something, there are definitely more dangerous ways to do it and not. And there are people dying and having this conversation. Which one of the interesting things to find out was that they really hadn’t heard people talk about this overdose risk. You know, you don’t hear kids talk about that as the way they talk about other risks and things.
David Livingston, LMFT: That’s right. That’s exactly right. Which is why I would strongly suggest that parents scare their kids, you know, and because fentanyl is being put into all kinds of things, not just opioids, but other substances like benzodiazepines. I’ve even heard of it being in marijuana and other things where things are getting laced with it is, I guess, the terminology. And so it’s a scarier world, I think, in that regard than it’s ever been when I was growing up. If if if you, you know, it was a big deal for someone to go out and sort of smoke some pot or something or but it wasn’t dangerous. And kids would explore a little bit and there were still boundaries. And but now it’s changed. I certainly am having that discussion with my kids so that they understand it’s it’s scary in a way that it did not use to be.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: One of the triggers for this conversation that we were looking at was an article that was titled Middle School Children Fall Prey to Fatal Fentanyl Overdoses by Jen Christiansen. And Clare had shared that with us as we’re we’re picking topics for this episode. The reason I want to mention the article is because a couple of facts that come out of that, that take the example of a young man who’s age 14 actually came to his parents and said, I need some help. I’ve been fooling around with pills a little bit. I was curious about them. I started taking them. And then soon after, like very soon after, he had told them, I believe it was even within days of telling them he died. He died of overdose. Another very interesting thing about this case is that he had done what I think a lot of young people now do when they are going to do something. He had actually researched on the Internet before messing around with pills or taking any drugs, and he had looked up things like, well, here’s how much youcan do to avoid becoming dependent. Here’s you don’t do more than this in this amount of time and you’ll be at less risk for overdose.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: And so, I mean, and I’m not certainly trying to endorse the trusting what you find there. But, you know, that’s a very interesting thing to me is to say that, you know, young people are used to looking up things and saying, if I’m going to do something, I want to do it right. I’ll read the Amazon reviews or whatever, whatever it is. But to say, you know, he was trying to be as safe as possible. But what he didn’t know was that a lot of the pills that are available, especially on the street level, are actually fentanyl that is, you know, used in a pill press or whatever. And they said some of the statistics here are that four out of ten of the pills that you might buy on the street, they say four out of ten fake pills made with fentanyl contain a potentially deadly dose. And that’s according to the DEA and just the data that they’ve gotten. So that really only comes from the ones they’ve recovered. Right, what they have access to. There’s got to be more out there that they haven’t seen.
David Livingston, LMFT: That’s 40% chance you take something that you might. I didn’t know that statistic, but that’s and not surprising. I mean, and, you know, I’m talking with people who are detoxing and so forth who’ve had some of OD’d and come back, many have lost friends to it. And so what happens is, is that that the way people talk about it, you know, because stuff is when things you know, and I think social media has sped this up, you know, where when you’re talking and thinking about things, there’s a comfortableness, there’s an ease, there’s a real sort of sense of this. Know, it’s not like you feel like you’re walking on on an edge of a cliff, right? You feel relaxed and like, Oh, this could be fun. You don’t feel like there’s a 40% chance I might fall off this cliff. Yeah. So I think. Right.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: Hiking, right. Which is not like me. But I went hiking a few years ago with my son and this little scout group and thing that he was a part of. And we went here in Utah where I live. We went down to Zion National Park, and they have this well-known thing called Angel’s Landing, where you get up to a certain point and you just have to hike with this cable and there’s a very small trail and you get up thousands of feet in the air and it’s kind of an accomplishment. They have had people perish on that hike before and they have the statistics somewhere available. And it’s like, oh, you know, out of the millions of people who go up there every year, the last time was a long time ago. And all those things that help people feel better about doing it. If they had a sign there that said four out of ten of the people that go up here are going to fall off. I don’t think that it would be as popular of an attraction.
David Livingston, LMFT: So so parents and friends and other people need to scare each other. And because it’s that dangerous, not because, you know, you want to be a pain, but because you want to be. You want your friends and your family and the people you care about. And, you know, in our society, in general, to stay intact and stay well. You all hear about it. You know, you hear about it some. But when I start to see the statistics on 100,000 people overdosing last year that it’s unbelievable. So yeah and it’s and the access and because of social media, I think information and accessibility is happening at earlier and earlier ages.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: When we talk about the idea of being scared, being the right level of scared, I kind of wonder because my whole life I know that I’ve always heard people talk about drug use and drug abuse and those that terminology life or death, life or death, life or death. You know, if you use drugs, you’ll die. If you use drugs, you’ll die. It’ll ruin your life. It’ll ruin your life, that kind of thing. I think because people have casual experiences with intoxicants all the time, you kind of get the other on the other side. There’s people that are like, Oh no, you’re just a narc. And it’s, it’s fun. And, you know, it’ll, it enhances your creativity or it enhances your it just makes life so much better. On the other extreme, even those of us that are in the treatment world, I think we look at it and we say, well, we’ll try to be honest and try to be realistic about this and say most many people have casual encounters with intoxication and it never messes up their life and they don’t die from it. They don’t have serious health problems from it. Now that there is this crisis, I worry that people are used to hearing like, oh, you know, take a drug, you’ll die right away. And it’s like, well, actually, now, you know, that’s more true than it’s ever been, but people maybe don’t listen to it as much because it’s like, Oh, they’ve been saying that and they’ve always been saying that.
David Livingston, LMFT: If you’re talking to a friend, it says, I’ve been taking it for a year. I’m fine, it’s fine. You know, it’s good. You’ll feel this, you’ll feel that you’re. Who are you going to believe, right? You know, your friend’s there. He’s doing fine. There is a difference between real fear. If someone’s getting opioids from a pharmacy, it’s they’re really pharmaceutical-grade medications. That’s different than it is if you’re buying off the street and you don’t know half the time. I know people who’ve thought they were getting medications from pharmacies that were not and it had fentanyl. And they were when they found out, they were you know, it’s like, oh, my gosh, I could have or I did overdose. And they brought me back and then I found that out. And so it’s scarier because of that. And that didn’t use to be the case to the degree it is now. You know, it’s like you’re saying it’s I think I’ve used this metaphor before, but like, if you tell everybody there’s a monster in the forest over there, you know, everybody’s head turns towards the forest and starts wondering how close they can get to the forest. And then they want to go in the forest and they want to see them. So it’s like in scaring people, you also bring their attention to it to some degree. But this is. This is. So any rate, it’s it’s how do you scare people? You make them realize that you could take one pill and it could be your last. And so if you’re going to do something, if you want to mess around with something, there are kids are going to experiment. The idea that they’re not is just, I think, naive. Some won’t, but many, many will. So the question then is how do you do it in a way that’s not really dangerous.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: When fentanyl is laced into so many drugs? And I had heard the same thing you did just recently. I heard someone talking about marijuana or some other or some dealers that are actually using those kinds of things to where someone may have every reason to think they’re not going to even be exposed to the fentanyl. And they are. Seems to be pretty important with all the overdose potential is the availability of naltrexone. And there are some states that are very regulated in it. And there’s been some appeal to the administration to make it not just prescription only to where people can have access to naltrexone and have it in the schools. You know, I was talking to a neighbor of mine who’s a librarian actually in a library that’s in an urban city area. And they actually keep an overdose box for people who go into overdose if they are using, say, in in the library bathrooms or something. And they’ve had to use that at times for people who are having overdose symptoms that might not last until the ambulance gets there.
David Livingston, LMFT: Right. So they use Narcan, which is basically a fast way, I believe it’s Naltrexone. Right. So they get an antagonist on board immediately.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: I’m curious about your thoughts, though, about what are some of the things that hold people back from wanting to, I don’t know, take those precautions? Do people are people hesitant to say, oh, I want that to be in my kids school because I know my kid would never do it, so I don’t think about it. Or is it just denial?
David Livingston, LMFT: I think it in a way, it’s too awful for parents to think about at times, and they also don’t want to think that their kids could get involved in it. It’s kind of scary. And it’s not an easy thing to. There’s some balance there and it depends on who you are as people. It’s very personal because I think you have to know kind of your kids and what’s you know and how how they’re wired and what they’re they’re going to get exposed to. From my perspective, you want to keep an open dialog. And if they are going to experiment with alcohol at some point or marijuana or other things and which most people do, I think most kids do. Not all kids, but a lot of kids do. You just want to make sure that there’s an open dialog, a lot of safety in terms of talking about it so that you can really, you know, hone in on what the dangers are and then educate them. But I think the major the main thing to be careful of these days is pills of all sorts because you don’t know what’s in them.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: What are the things that I thought I think is the most useful feedback I’ve ever gotten about? Having an open dialog with your kids is making sure that when you do talk to them, how are you talking to them about things that aren’t drugs, sex and all kinds of behavioral things that you might be worried about when you’re talking to your kids about normal things or about homework or any of those kinds of things. Are you freaking out at them? If they say something you don’t like, are you listening to them? Are you engaging in a dialog? You know, when they have questions about things or they have opinions about things or you belittling them, or are you actually taking what they say seriously? There’s a lot of elements to how we talk about things that aren’t that important, that are the smaller subjects. And I think that’s going to go into whether or not our kids are likely to say, hey, I’m thinking about trying opiates, you know, because if you yelled at me about me having a weird opinion about something or if you, you know, yelled and screamed when I brought home a certain kind of report card, I’m certainly not going to tell you that the other night I took a pill and I felt really funny, but I might want to do it again.
David Livingston, LMFT: Well, I think that’s it. And one of the things I say to people is and I put it just like this, I say, listen, I don’t give a damn about the chemicals. I care about you and want you to be okay. So just talk to me about it. Just tell me what’s going on and so forth, and we’ll figure it out. And so just to open it up and remove it from, you know, it’s the same with, you know, whether you get an A or a D, you know, I don’t really care about the A or D. I do care about your development in your life and how you’re and how things are right and what’s going on. And so the the the subject’s bigger. It’s about really, you know, the progression and the development of a person. And that includes how you talk to each other, how you think about things together, how they internalize, you know, because the better they feel about themselves, the more valuable they feel the chances are they’ll make better decisions. I think. So what you’re pointing out, I think, is is critical. What is. So if you’re I mean, is there a certain tone that you that when you’re talking with your kids and so forth that you have found effective.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: I try to have the same message that you do a lot of times, which is like, look, you know, whatever it is, we’ll figure it out. If there’s something wrong, we’ll figure it out. Let’s just not you know, let’s not get into where you have to hide something from me because you think I’ll be mad. But then when I’m using those words, it has to be backed up by whether or not I got mad over something stupid the day before. Right? That’s to me, that’s the biggest thing that I try, because it is sort of hard as a parent. You know, I’m one of those parents. I tend to get more frustrated about stupid things like the trash can not getting taken out or something like that than I am to get upset about grades. I feel like I. And so that’s different. Like I might say, Oh man, there’s trash cans, you know, overfull. Why didn’t someone just take it out? And in that case, I have to watch that, that I’m not freaking out about little stupid things, because then how are you going to talk to me about something serious? One of the things that I think is a struggle in talking to my kids is actually that they’re good, smart kids.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: Now, that’s funny because there’s so many advantages to having a kid who’s a good kid and a smart kid, but it’s also hard to talk to them because they really don’t want to disappoint you. Oftentimes, if they’re a good kid and we’ll be really hesitant to tell you, yeah, I’m really I’m getting into a little bit of trouble with my grades. For example, I you know, I’ve gotten overwhelmed. I’m taking too many classes now. They’ll usually just try to fix it and then tell you later or I hope you didn’t notice. And their grades took a dive for a while. They’ll just say, I’ll just get ahead of it later and it’ll be fine, and you’re busy. And now you throw on top of that if they’re an emotionally sensitive kid. And I would say I know that we stay away from generalities on this podcast, but I do find that those that are emotionally sensitive oftentimes are a little more at risk to get into addiction in the first place.
David Livingston, LMFT: I mean, I think there’s a lot of factors and that could be one. But oh, yeah. I mean, how a person is put together and people are put together very differently in terms of their sensitivity levels, their interests, how how their nervous system is wired and what they respond to. And I think you have to know, you know, as if we’re speaking about parents, you’ve got to know your kid and you have to know, like there are some kids you can, you know, will come to you if there’s an issue as other kids you’ll never hear from if there’s an issue. And you have to pay attention. You have got to kind of check-in. You’ve got to. So above all else, you have to be attuned to who your kid is and how they operate and what the dynamics are. I mean, attunement is the thing, right? You stay attuned, you stay close, you stay attuned, you know, and we all miss things and we all. But if there’s if it’s good enough, I think it’s your best bet. But the other thing is, the time the amount of time you spend with someone will dictate a lot. So it’s you know, and also, I know that the more time I spend talking with someone or with someone, the more things that move from the background to the foreground. The first inclination isn’t going to be to want to tell you certain things, especially if they’re hard things or hard discussions, or they feel embarrassed or worried about your response or something like that. But the more time you’re together, the better the chance. Those things that are in the background may come to the foreground and plus you also just the rapport and everything gets stronger. So I think time is critical.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: Sometimes social media can actually give the illusion of safety because I don’t have to go to a sketchy neighborhood to find something. I can find it online. And so it feels like I’m a lot safer. But in reality, the secrecy of it going up is actually proportionately more dangerous nowadays.
David Livingston, LMFT: And if you’re taking a pill, you don’t really know what you’re putting in your body unless you got it from a doctor and a pharmacy and it’s been prescribed. You don’t know what you’re putting in your body. And you’re not it’s unclear what it could be. I just think that’s the thing that everybody has to understand. And because there is so much anonymity and the world is now so connected. And and and in some ways it’s good. In some ways it’s not good at all. You have to make sure that your kids and friends and everybody is aware of it. I’ve seen so much of of the losses and people and lives and so forth. If you’re going to make a mistake, make a mistake and going too far and scaring them better, they’re a little more scared than a little too comfortable. You can help that by also helping them feel comfortable with you and just reminding them that it’s not the chemicals you’re worried about, it’s them. Right. And but the chemicals are that dangerous. So it’s like walking around a cliff that our instincts don’t kick in. Something looks benign and safe. But it’s not.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: And that’s going to do it for us today. Thank you so much for listening to myself. I’m Dwight Hurst and David Livingston. As we’ve been able to have this conversation, we’d like you to get involved in the conversation. You can follow us on Twitter @opiates for the account for the Waismann Detox and Opioid Treatment Specialists. Please participate in our hashtag #StopTheSilence to make sure that we are spreading awareness and sharing the word about the fentanyl crisis and of how out of hand and how scary that’s becoming. Our message is on Twitter are open and you can also email us at info at opiates to learn more or to share questions that you would like to see us address on this show. This show is produced by Popped Collar Productions and our music is the song Medical by Clean Mind Sounds. Remember, until we meet again, keep asking questions. If you ask questions, you can find answers. And wherever you find answers, you can find hope. Thanks again for listening. Talk to you again soon.
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