By Jeff Greshak MSW, LMSW, ACSW
While it’s still too early to measure the full impact of COVID-19, many national and state indicators show substance use among youth has increased during the pandemic. In fact, data from the State of Michigan shows opioid use surged during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Statistics released by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services indicate the number of opioid overdoses jumped 33% between April and May 2020.
This data is certainly very concerning, but the good news is there is help available for parents who are ready to address this issue at home or on-the-go, as conversations should be informal and not formal “lectures.” Research shows that early and frequent conversations between parents and youth/teens can have a positive impact in delaying possible substance use and abuse. It’s important to note that instead of lecturing, these should be real, honest, two-way conversations with a chance for your kids to ask questions or share concerns and experiences. Believe it or not, focus group data suggests that youth do indeed seek information and guidance from parents and other adults. While these conversations might seem difficult, they are extremely important.
This is why Priority Health has partnered with TalkSooner and other local health organizations to help Michigan parents or caregivers access free resources to help them have meaningful and healthy conversations with kids about drugs and other harmful substances.
TalkSooner.org (and the TalkSooner app available to download for free) offers free guidance, tips and drug trend information, including signs to watch for if there are concerns your child may be using. The goal is to inspire parents/caregivers to have healthy, meaningful conversations at any stage/age of a child’s development – anytime, and anywhere. The website is also available in Spanish, and the app includes timely and relevant information and tips to parents/caregivers of youth — empowering them to have the “drug talk” with their children and teens. And it’s never too early to start with these helpful talking tips for all ages and stages of parenting:
- Early Childhood: Be a good role model, talk about health, spend time together.
- Pre-Tween: Talk about drugs now so it’s a comfortable topic later.
- Tween: Consider your own actions and look for teachable moments.
- Teen: Be a good listener. Keep it casual. Watch your language.
- Young Adult & Former Users: Engage in a two-way conversation. Share your own experiences. Offer help.
The drug trend information and glossary TalkSooner provides are also regularly updated — so parents and caregivers can be in the know about the latest substances their children may encounter with their peers. The trusted links offer additional state and national resources.
At Priority Health, we recommend TalkSooner as a trusted source for tips and tools to our members who are parents and caregivers. If you haven’t had the important talk in your family yet, now is the time. Remember that they may roll their eyes, but they will open their ears.
If you or a loved one are in need of substance use disorder treatment, you can contact any of the following Michigan resources at any time. Priority Health members can contact the Behavioral Health department for help at 1-800-673-8043.
National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is coming up on April 24. If you need to remove old prescription drugs from your home, you can find a drug take back site near you here.
About the Author: Jeff Greshak (MSW, LMSW, ACSW) is director of the behavioral health department at Priority Health with 30 years’ experience in clinical and administrative behavioral health services.