Op-ed: This simple thing could have a big impact on the heroin epidemic

Morgan Ashley Harsh is a freshman at Bowling Green State University. She is from Middletown.

The opioid epidemic in Middletown is out of control and it stems from new people becoming addicted to the drugs circulating within the city.

It has become such a problem that WCPO has an entire online news section dedicated to the topic of the opioid epidemic that includes opinions from those who want to help and those who don’t.

Morgan Harsh

I grew up in Middletown and continued to return to the city after moving. I have witnessed the changes caused by the opioid epidemic. Every time I go back to the city, it seems to grow duller and lose the life I had known when I was little.

I also saw how people were changing. Some seemed more reclusive, in a Boo Radley way, and I hardly saw anyone outside, even during the summer, at the parks where I had once played.

A simpler solution

The big debate that’s being focused on is what do we do about the people who are addicted to drugs now to solve this problem? There have been arguments from both citizens and political candidates over costs, prison sentencing and rehab programs.

While many people are only focusing on the present issue and solution, there is a simpler solution that could potentially solve the problem and would’ve prevented this problem in the first place: A healthy parent and child relationship.

Solving the issue comes from parents having the ability to step up and take responsibility to educate their kids. Parents' main job is to help their children grow and become productive members of society.

By focusing on the next generation, the increasing number of addicts will start to drop. Other people addicted now still need a solution, but the growing number has to be slowed down in order to solve the problem.

An ongoing conversation

Growing up, my parents had the conversation about drugs and always warned of the dangers they would cause. It wasn’t one huge lecture that took hours to cover all topics, it was a conversation that slowly came about because my parents wanted me to understand it.

One of the biggest ways they did it was when I was going through the phase of naming what jobs I wanted to do when I was older. They explained that I had to keep my life on track by not getting into any situations that would hinder my future and they meant no illegal activity with drugs. It was getting the conversation started early on in life and making the big consequences understood.

It was also about being a role model. My parents never did drugs and followed what they preached. A child sees the parent every day and will observe and take on the traits the parents have. If they see them being productive, hard-working, and following the law, then they will follow in their footsteps.

Another aspect is allowing children to ask questions. By answering the questions and not ignoring them, the parent allows the child to understand they will have their questions answered. Even if the parent doesn’t know the answer, they can explain they don’t know and that they and the child can find the answer together. This produces a secure parent and child bond so that both may be able to work together.

In return, the parent must also ask open questions that cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no” to keep the conversation between the parties going. Instead of asking “how was your day?” ask “what did you learn in history class today?” This allows the child to communicate beyond one or two words.

The power of listening

When in a conversation with the child, make sure you, as a parent, listen. I was always taught that they key to conversations is not only starting one, but being able to listen. However, the parents must listen without judgment. That way, the child trusts them and will come back with issues that they will need the parents help with.

Also, become involved in your children’s life. Not in a controlling way, but try to pay attention to who their friends are. This will allow a quick way to find out if they are a positive influence. Go to a school sports event, concert, or theater performance and this will indicate you are proud of what your child is doing, and they will follow a good path. If you can’t go to their events, sit down with them while they do homework and work with them if they need help.

Set clear rules

Finally, parents should establish clear rules. If that child breaks the rule the parent sets, consequences will be brought. Set the grades you expect them to get, provide a curfew, and request they let you know where they are. This will teach them that as they get older when there is a law in place that they break, they will face consequences, such as prison time.

Remember, you’re the parent not the friend. By establishing rules, you become the parent and the structure a child needs when growing up.

Parents educating children, sitting down with their kids, following the reasons mentioned before, and explaining the opioid situation when they have questions or witness what’s being said on news will cause a ripple effect in ending the opioid epidemic.

Teaching your child to have a voice, which they learned from the parents, and to not be afraid to say "no" if someone offers them drugs, would keep them from getting started in the first place. This will lead to fewer people committing drug-related crimes. That, in turn, will create more space in prisons for those who commit other felonies. Fewer people in prison from drug-related crimes would save money from being spent on the prisoners and the prisons because they are not facing overcrowding.

Finally, there would not be a need for rehab programs that cost money because there would not be anyone who needed it for drug addiction. This ripple effect stems from a simple conversation and bond between parent and child.

If my parents never invested time to educate me about the dangers, never showed me to work hard in life and didn't foster a healthy relationship, then maybe I would’ve been one of those kids who decided to do drugs and throw my life away.

In the end, it is about parents being parents to their children, while not giving them the excuse to use drugs that will lead to the solution of the opioid epidemic.

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