How to Protect Your Family From Opioid Abuse


Opioid abuse has become a crisis in Tennessee and throughout the country. Opioids are highly addictive narcotic drugs that include prescription pain medicine and illegal substances like heroin.

In 2016, 1,631 Tennesseans died from drug overdoses, the highest total in one year in state history. To see what’s happening in your community, use the Tennessee Drug Overdose Dashboard, an interactive tool that contains state, regional and county data on fatal overdoses, nonfatal overdoses and drug prescribing.

Overdose deaths in Tennessee related to fentanyl, an extremely powerful synthetic opioid, increased dramatically, from 169 in 2015 to 294 in 2016. The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) recently issued a Public Health Advisory on fentanyl, which is similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more powerful. The TDH urges Tennesseans to have heightened awareness about the misuse of fentanyl and the risks for overdose deaths from the drug.

Raising Drug-Free Children

Research has led to some simple tips for raising drug-free children:

  • Be there: Get involved in your children’s lives and activities.
  • Open the lines of communication and keep them open.
  • Set a good example. Actions have more impact than words.
  • Set rules and expect your children to follow them.
  • Monitor your children’s whereabouts.
  • Maintain family activities such as eating dinner together.
  • Incorporate religious and spiritual practices into family life.

Warning Signs of Drug Abuse

The use of recreational drugs, over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs can lead to substance use issues. Here are a few common signs and symptoms of drug abuse from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS):

  • Neglecting responsibilities at school, work or home.
  • Taking risks when using drugs, such as driving and having unprotected sex.
  • Legal trouble, such as arrests for disorderly conduct or driving under the influence.

Here are some more warning signs from the TDMHSAS.

What Parents Can Do

Parents should be honest with their children about the dangers of opioid addiction. Here are some tips for parents from and the Mayo Clinic:

Talk to your kids. Tell your children about how deadly opioid drugs can be. Studies indicate that children who learn about the risks of drugs at home are less likely to use them.

Set rules. Let your child know that it's not OK to share medications with others or take drugs prescribed for others.

Store prescription drugs safely. Keep opioids and other prescription medicine in a secure place.

Dispose of leftover prescriptions. Return unused or leftover opioid prescriptions to a hospital, doctor's office or pharmacy. Many areas offer "take back" events to collect unused painkillers. Get more information on disposing of unused medicine.

Make sure your child isn’t ordering drugs online. Keep track of your child’s online activity. There are websites that sell counterfeit and dangerous drugs that may not require a prescription.

Talk to your doctor. Discuss alternatives to opioids for pain relief with your doctor.

Youth Crisis Hotlines

If you or your child is having a mental health or substance abuse crisis, you can call Tennessee’s statewide toll-free crisis hotline 24/7 at 855-CRISIS-1 (855-274-7471).

If you have general questions about substance abuse or recovery, call the Tennessee REDLINE 24/7 for free confidential information and referrals at 800-889-9789.

The TDMHSAS’ Adolescent Substance Use Disorders Services Program offers treatment to adolescents 13-18 who may have a substance abuse disorder.

You can also visit the TDMHSAS.


Additional Resources

Learn more about protecting children from prescription drug abuse.

See the Surgeon General’s 2016 comprehensive report on drug abuse: “Facing Addiction in America.”

Find resources from the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America at CADCA is an international group of anti-drug coalitions.

Learn more about opioid abuse from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Find information on prescription drug misuse and abuse from the federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).