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Youth Overdose Education

The following content has been developed to provide young people facts on how to recognize and respond to overdose and information about the Good Samaritan Law, which protects victims of overdose and those who call for help.

Overdose Education and Young People

Overdose deaths in people under 30 have risen nationally and in Washington State.

Like any age group, young people’s opioid use can range from no use to use disorder and everything in between. Young people may use opioids for different reasons, including social pressure, to feel good, to not feel bad, to cope with mental health (depression/anxiety), to help sleep, due to boredom, and even sensation-seeking.

Today, overdose education is as important as how to prepare for any other health emergency. Young people can reduce their own risks for overdose and know how to respond if someone else has an overdose.

Anyone of any age can learn and provide overdose education. Building knowledge to address risks can occur throughout the community:

  • Young people can educate themselves and other their friends and family
  • Parents and caregivers
  • Youth-focused organizations and non-profits
  • Mental health professionals
  • Juvenile corrections programs
  • Youth SUD treatment programs
  • Schools-nurses, counselors, teachers.

Learn more about naloxone and overdose education in schools

Fentanyl and Young People

Most recent overdose deaths in young people involved fentanyl, a very strong opioid that can cause rapid overdose. Fentanyl in Washington State is often in the form of counterfeit pills that look like real prescription pills and can also be present in powders or other forms.

Fentanyl can rapidly lead to addiction because it is strong and short acting. This can create a cycle where a person feels really good, then really bad, so they use again and repeat the cycle. They start off using to feel good, but pretty quickly transition to using in order to avoid feeling bad or going into painful withdrawal. No one plans to get addicted but it happens.

Tips for “Talking with teens about fentanyl” from Public Health-Seattle & King County.

A pre-teen youth speaks to an older adult, presumably their father, while at the skate park

Basics of Overdose Education for Young People

Overdose education for young people should include:

Information about the WA State Good Samaritan Law is especially important for young people, who may hesitate to get emergency help because they are afraid of legal consequences.

Parent Resources

“Talk Even If” has resources to help parents and other adults talk to young people about fentanyl and overdose.  This campaign from King County has specific tips and strategies to help parents have this conversation.


Photo of father and son talking. Text "Have the Talk That Can Save Lives."

Tips for Talking About Overdose with Young People


Ask questions and listen without judgment


Emphasize that they can use this information to help someone else


If you think someone is at risk for overdose, focus on safety rather than judgment

Building on Overdose Education

Overdose prevention can be a way to talk about other relevant behavioral health issues, including mental health, safe use of medications, managing stress and pain without medications, and helping others be safe.  For example, talking about why people use opioids can lead to a discussion about healthy coping strategies.

Below are resources for mental health, overdose prevention and response, and substance use disorder treatment.

Learn About Treatment

For young people experiencing opioid use disorder (OUD), there is help and recovery is possible. Medications are the frontline treatment for young people and adults. Learn more about treatment options here or contact the WA Recovery Help Line.

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