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SOUTH PARK (KDKA) — The DEA and the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office have been doing middle school presentations for years, but with drugs more potent and easier to get than ever before, what you do at home is crucial.

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“You have to talk to your child before someone else does,” said Special Agent In Charge David Battiste of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

If your child is starting middle school, now is the time to educate them about the dangers of opioid use and abuse. According to experts, ages 11 to 14 are critical years in understanding the dangers of opioid use and abuse. The DEA and the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office have been doing middle school presentations for years. With drugs more potent and easier to get than ever before, what you do to educate your child at home is crucial.

Teaching your child begins with accepting a tough reality.

“You could have the smartest, most athletic, most generous, best son or daughter that you could ever imagine and that son or daughter is still a candidate for substance abuse,” said Mike Manko, Communications Director of the District Attorney’s Office of Allegheny County.

Your child’s choices during middle school can alter the course of their life.

“Research has shown that the closer we can get a child to the age of 21 before they have their first drink, the more likely they are never to have a problem with alcohol. If they don’t have a problem with alcohol, they’re likely to never have a problem with drugs,” said Manko.

Understand your child is likely to encounter opioids in their pre-teen years.

“Some of these students are getting wisdom teeth pulled, they are having athletic injuries, and they are coming into contact with this,” said Battiste.

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Keep in mind the three most common areas where contact occurs.

“This is real-world stuff. Medicine cabinets, doctor visits and friends, they have to be aware,” said Battiste.

In Allegheny County, the rise in overdose deaths is stunning. In the year 2000, 109 people lost their lives. By 2016, 613 people died from overdoses.

“The population of this building, I was told today, is the number of people who died of a fatal drug overdose in Allegheny County last year. So imagine everyone in this building being wiped out,” said Manko as he presented the statistics to eighth grade students at South Park Middle School.

DEA agents realize they cannot arrest their way out of the opioid epidemic, nor do they want to.

“We’re going to have to educate and stop folks from getting into the system so we can get those numbers down,” said Battiste.

The DEA’s “Operation Prevention” program focuses on how the powerful triangle of parents, teachers, and kids are all needed to help turn the problem around.

“Whether someone is offering them for experimental use and/or whether they are being prescribed it themselves, they need to know the inherent risk of opioids,” said Battiste.

Operation Prevention can be found at It also includes a tool kit for parents to serve as an education guide.

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On Aug. 25, 2017, the District Attorney’s Office will be providing the same opioid education presentation for the teachers at South Park High School.