Opioid Education Could Start As Early As Kindergarten in Some States

By David Konow 02/10/17

Ohio and New York are just two of the states that passed laws requiring schools to teach kids about the dangers of opioids.

Young children learning in class

One of the oldest clichés about talking with your children about drugs is to make sure you speak with them “early and often” about the potential dangers of narcotics. But now, with the opioid epidemic growing out of hand, some schools are talking to kids about opioids as early as kindergarten.

The Associated Press reported last month that some states, such as Ohio and New York, have passed laws requiring schools to teach kids about the dangers of opioids. And in New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie said there should be a “new, specific curriculum in every school on opioids.”

"The message will be simple and direct and start in kindergarten," said Christie. "The medicine in Mom and Dad’s medicine cabinet is not safe for you to use just because a doctor gave it to them.”

In January, Governor Christie declared opioid abuse a public health crisis. His new demand for stronger opioid education is part of a larger executive order, which also includes prescription limits for patients.

Apparently this isn’t the first time that early opioid education has been called for. As Boston.com reports, last summer, a bill was considered in New Hampshire that would make drug education in all grades mandatory, starting as early as kindergarten.

As far as how to talk to youngsters about opioids, on the official website of the Ohio Department of Education, there’s a link to “Opioid Abuse Prevention for Elementary Schools,” which recommends that “instruction should include differences among foods, poisons, medicines and drugs; personal responsibility for one’s actions; and rules regarding who provides, distributes, accesses and monitors medication in the home and community.”

In some areas, education programs against opioids are still developing, and as William Kerr, a school superintendent in Pennsylvania, told AP, “We do believe that the earlier the conversations start between parents and children the better, and so we will also be exploring at the elementary level.”

While some parents may balk at the thought of talking to their children about drugs at such an early stage, one rehab center, Phoenix House, recommends talking to children about drugs when they are in pre-school. As the rehab’s website states, “If we talk to them now, before the problem exists, we can have an impact when they are 10, 11 and 12. The foundation for all healthy habits begins in the preschool years.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.