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GUEST COLUMN Helping parents protect kids from opioid misuse Encouraging parents to talk with teens about the dangers of prescription medications

Old Colony Memorial - 9/2/2017

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced Aug. 31 the launch of a new statewide public information campaign to raise awareness among parents about what they can do to protect their middle and high school-aged kids from prescription drug misuse and addiction.

"Parents play an important role in protecting their kids from opioid and substance misuse, and our administration is supporting another tool to begin that conversation and to keep talking - because kids will listen," said Governor Charlie Baker. "This public information campaign adds to our strong foundation of prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery in ending the opioid crisis that has impacted too many families throughout the Commonwealth."

The prevention campaign, launched with funding from the DPH Bureau of Substance Addiction Services, is titled Stop Addiction Before It Starts (, and it encourages parents to talk early and often with their children about the dangers of misusing prescription pain medications. Four out of five people who use heroin began by misusing prescription pain medications, and one in four teens report they've misused or abused a prescription drug at least once. According to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, kids whose parents talked with them about prescription pain medications were 42 percent less likely to misuse these drugs than those whose parents didn't.

"We've heard a lot of heartbreaking stories from parents that their kids were introduced to opioids either at parties or through friends, or were prescribed them after a sports-related injury or medical procedure. We want parents to know just how strong their influence is when it comes to helping their kids understand the dangers of prescription medication misuse," said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. "There's no better time for this message than now - as we head into another school year and another season of school sports."

The campaign will appear across the state on TV and on digital and paid social media platforms. Viewers will be directed to for additional information about the importance of talking with teens about opioid misuse, tips on how to start the conversation, further information about opioids including the safe disposal of unused prescription pain pills, and resources for treatment and recovery.

"When we spoke with parents in preparation for this campaign they told us they understood the dangers of opioid addiction, but some weren't sure how to start an ongoing conversation with their kids about those dangers," said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel. "This campaign is designed to educate and empower parents with the facts about opioid misuse and to provide them with real-life tips on how to talk to their kids."

In the coming months, a new phase of the Stop Addiction Before It Starts campaign will launch focusing specifically on reaching parents of Hispanic middle and high school-age kids. According to the most recent DPH data report (, while the majority of opioid-related deaths continue to occur among white residents (82 percent of deaths) there is a rising burden of opioid-related deaths among Hispanic residents.

Stop Addiction Before It Starts is the latest public information campaign launched in response to the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts. The other campaigns were Stop Addiction, a prevention-based effort to educate parents on the signs and symptoms of opioid addiction; State Without StigMA, a social marketing campaign to reduce the impact of stigma, which keeps so many people with opioid use disorder from getting the treatment they need; and Make The Right Call, an overdose prevention campaign which encouraged active users and their friends and families to dial 911 at the first sign of an overdose and to carry naloxone as a lifesaving tool.

Parents can find information about treatment for opioid use disorder by contacting the Massachusetts Substance Use Helpline at 800-327-5050, or by visiting