The past several years have seen an increase in fentanyl- and opioid-related overdoses across the country—and the Austin-area is no exception.

Narcotics have affected or taken the lives of many, from high school students in Hays CISD to Austin residents across all ethnicities, genders and socioeconomic statuses.

What's happening

Community Impact spoke with Dr. Carlos Tirado—founder and CEO of Collaborative Addiction Recovery Management & Assistance health, or CARMAhealth—on how parents can effectively navigate the opioid epidemic with their children in mind.

Tirado also specializes in the treatment of acute and chronic substance use disorders, and said he has certainly seen an increase of reports, admissions and inquiries for treatment services for adolescents in recent years.

While many of those requests have been related to the use of marijuana or cannabis-related products, the overall outlook on addiction has changed over the years, he said.

"We look at it less as simply a vice or [an] immoral act, and we see it much more comprehensively as a medical disorder that comes with certain behavioral and psychological and spiritual impairments because of the chronic misuse of the drug," Tirado said.

Another big change within the medical sphere is being able to identify risk factors that increase a person's likelihood of developing a substance use problem, such as early exposure to drugs or trauma.

What you need to know

People as young as 15 years old have died from accidental fentanyl poisonings in recent years, prompting educational campaigns and partnerships between local entities and nonprofit organizations.

Tirado said it's important to have open and honest conversations with kids as young as 10 years old to discuss drugs.

"It's okay to start having conversations with kids about drugs earlier than you might expect," he added. "Relying on credible sources for getting your information about the true risks associated with different drugs is very important."

Kids, especially those in high school, have access to a lot of information via the internet, Tirado said, and attempts to "scare someone straight" are typically ineffective.

What else?

Another thing for parents to keep in mind is the importance of family, he said.

"Families do set the tone for what the overall belief is and values are around the use of substances," Tirado said. "Parents, they must decide what they stand for around substances, what the message is in their home around substances."

For more information about fentanyl, opioids and other narcotics, visit