A teen boy is seen wearing glasses and looking to camera


I’m Haunted By The Thought That The Opioid Crisis Could Claim My Kids

Apr 25, 2022

Like many others, I recently developed a rather close relationship with my local public health unit’s social media channels and website.

During this pandemic, they have been my go-to source for figuring out when my kids could get vaccinated. And when I could get my doses (proud Astrazeneca-Moderna hybrid right here). Oh, and they reported on all of the many different rules for my mom (hello, sandwich generation).

My attention to their every COVID post certainly caught the almighty algorithm’s interest, and now I see most information shared by the public health unit. Information on the whereabouts of COVID clinics, and flu shots, too. Job postings. You name it.

And then: a rash of deaths from a batch of drugs heavily cut with fentanyl.

The reality of drugs and family is something Brianna Bell knows well. To this day, she struggles to have a relationship with her father, an addict.

An Opioid Crisis

I don’t live in a big city, so it’s difficult to use the argument of scale when news like this crosses my desk.

It’s hard not to wonder if I knew any of the people who died, all in the span of 24 hours.

Perhaps I stood behind them in line at the post office, or saw them outside the library. Maybe they were related to my kids’ friends. The closeness of the overdoses, and how quickly fentanyl takes lives, caught me in its grip.

I opened a browser window and researched how to obtain a naloxone kit. I learned that they are free — free! — and available at local drug stores.

"It’s hard not to wonder if I knew any of the people who died, all in the span of 24 hours."

I marveled at the science that has found a way to potentially stop drug overdoses. I resolved to pick up a kit the next day while I ran errands.

As I closed my computer for the night, an uneasy thought took hold.

The thing is, I’m a homebody, and not out much at night. If I did carry a naloxone kit, I would likely never be in a position to help someone, unless they were in trouble at my local coffee shop, or perhaps at the studio where I lead writing workshops. Not to generalize, but I’m not expecting a daytime overdose from either population.

But at high school parties? Quite possibly.

The Nights, The Parties

My partner and I are often home, and we live in a snug bungalow.

Our place is not the chosen location for teen hangouts or ragers.

Although I have offered up the digs, my son knows that my 9:30 p.m. bedtime and nightly Netflix habit doesn’t make for a party house.

So my possessing a naloxone kit will do little to assist trouble occurring at parties held elsewhere.

Do I arm my teenager with a kit?

When I ask myself this question, I wonder if it is a tacit acknowledgment that drugs are circulating through school, even, possibly, their friend group.

"It could happen to anyone’s kids, no matter how perfectly we parent, no matter how great a kid."

It's a hard thought to have, because I don’t want my kids to do drugs.

I worry about the hard stuff. I stress that the soft stuff is laced with the hard stuff. I obsess over the possibility that shrooms will cause them to do something dangerous.

But I’m not naïve. Drugs were around when I was a teen, even in my affluent, gold-medal-winning high school. They’re only more prevalent now that the internet has made it so much easier to meet and procure just about anything.

So if I were really worried about teens overdosing, I would ask my own kids to carry the kits — and use them, if ever the situation demanded it.

It’s what I would want someone — anyone — to do if either of my kids were at risk of dying from an overdose. And as much as I don’t want them trying this stuff, there is a chance that the impulsive, curious teen brain will make that choice (or perhaps peer pressure will play a role).

I love the beach, but I refuse to stick my head in the sand on this one. It could happen to anyone’s kids, no matter how perfectly we parent, no matter how great a kid. It. Can. Happen.

'Mommy Wine Culture' is something Leisse Wilcox has been exposed to, like many parents. But she chooses not to drink.

Talking About Drugs With A Teen

I only have one kid in high school, and I haven’t broached the subject of him carrying around a naloxone kit yet, although we have had plenty of discussions about drugs.

We got close when talking about the recent death of Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, whom we both idolized. My son’s take on it was that the opioids and downers had been too lethal a combination.

“No narcan kit around, too bad,” was his statement.

I didn’t press it then. With teens, I think it's best to move slowly. Too much, too soon, and they might clam up. I let it marinate, and I hope to pick up the conversation again someday soon.

As for my to-do list headlined by “pickup naloxone kit”? I stood in line at the pharmacy.

I waited.

It was a particularly busy day.

I was due to pick up my daughter at middle school, and I was going to be late.

As I walked away, errand unfulfilled, I hoped I wouldn’t ever have cause to regret coming home empty-handed.

In my dreams, I’ll never need a kit, and my kids won’t either.

But I have to see it as a possibility. And I’ll try to distribute the kits to my kids with equanimity, not fear.

And remember all the greats who left us too soon.

Greats who were someone's kids too. 

Article Author Janice Quirt
Janice Quirt

Read more from Janice here.

Janice Quirt is a writer who moved from the big city to Orangeville in 2014 and never looked back, claiming a need to take the scenic route through life. Her blended family includes five kids, a wildly overgrown garden and a whole lot of coffee. Janice cherishes creative writing as a treat, right up there with overstuffed tacos, '80s mixed tapes and walks on beaches scattered with dunes. 

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