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Teens are not immune to the opioid epidemic

Opioids: A Generational Crisis

Drug overdoses are taking the lives of people in the prime of their life. Any abuse of substances is especially dangerous for adolescents and teens since their brains are still developing. Opioids change the neurotransmission in the brain and can cause long-lasting damage to the brain.

Mary Stackhouse, a news reporter and weekend anchor for WZDX Fox 54, recently visited Pinnacle Behavioral Health (PBH) to learn more about Alabama's opioid epidemic, its impact on our youth and how counselors are addressing the epidemic. Since 2006, PBH has developed therapeutic and alternative education programs for boys and girls ages 12 - 19 struggling with behavior, mental health and/or substance use disorders.

Stackhouse recently aired the news story on WZDX Fox 54.

“When you introduce these meds, you’re interrupting the ability for your brain to function. And when you’re already starting off with an adolescent whose brain is not developed, causing it to even have further delays in functioning – it is very scary,” said Penny Baker, Director of PBH Clinical Services. Baker has provided therapeutic care for adolescents and their families for more than 30 years.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 70,000 people died from overdoses in 2017. Opioids were involved in 47,600 (67.8%) of all drug overdose deaths. According to the CDC, 835 individuals from Alabama died from a drug overdose in 2017. Alabama was also among the states with the highest significant increases in drug overdose deaths from 2016 to 2017.

The good news, according to Baker, is that opioid use and opioid addiction among adolescents seems to be declining. The bad news, however, is that death from opioid use is increasing, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.*

While strides have been made by federal and state government to help community-based organizations, healthcare providers, parents and families reduce the availability of opioids. Yet the product on the streets is more potent and deadly. Education is key to keeping your child safe from the addictive effects of opioids.

Baker’s best advice for parents? If you sense a drug problem with your son or daughter, don’t wait to act on it. “Once parents recognize that there is a problem, it’s usually already a big problem because usually the recognition comes when legal issues have come up or health issues have come up."

One simple measure of prevention is to ensure your house is opioid free."You don’t leave those in your house. If you have been prescribed (opioids) and you have pills left over, do not leave them at your house. And make sure your kids know there are alternatives. Know you have an option that if an opioid is prescribed to you or you child, you can say no, 'I would like something else,' where you don’t even risk going down that slippery slope." Click here for more of Baker's interview.

For a list of opioid recovery treatment options for teens, call an admission's counselor at Pinnacle Behavioral Health at 866-906-TEEN (8336) or to research options for adults, visit WZDX Fox 54 Rocket City Now Resource Guide.

*https://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-development/substance-use/drugs/opioids/index.html#prevalence