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Even young children need to learn about drug safety

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When you start childproofing your house for those wobbly little legs, don’t forget medications that might be within grasp.

When our children are little, concern about drug and alcohol misuse is far from our minds. However, the evening news warns about the latest designer drugs while our social media feed is flooded with nightmare stories about teenage binge drinking.

“Conversations need to be early, often and age appropriate,” says Jan Cairnes, director of Prevention Services for the Hanley Foundation in West Palm Beach. “The easiest message to give children of all ages is to model appropriate drinking behavior. For example, have a glass of wine with dinner, not a bottle; have a beer, not a six-pack.”

It’s best to speak in an age-appropriate manner, suggests Jeff Kadel, executive director of the Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition in Boynton Beach. “Don’t tell a 6 year old he is four times more likely to become addicted to alcohol if he drinks before the age of 15. Instead, explain some things are bad for growing brains and bodies,” he says.

Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, based in New York City, offers dialogue ideas for parents to engage children of all ages. For example, tell toddlers to never share medications and that even gummy vitamins can make them sick if they take too many at once.

If your child appears to be under the influence of a controlled substance, call 911 or go to the emergency room. Immediate medical attention can lower the risk of overdose or long-term side effects that could impact their well-being.


• Jan Cairnes, director of Prevention Services, Hanley Foundation
• Jeff Kadel, executive director, Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition

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