VANCOUVER:  British Columbia’s medical health officer is urging parents to talk to their children about the dangers of potentially deadly illicit opioids before end-of-school celebrations.

Dr. Perry Kendall has written a letter that will be distributed by schools that says 19 youths between the ages of 14 and 18 have died from overdoses since January 2016.

Kendall says parents should discuss substance use and the risks of overdose because young people may experiment during the summer months.

He says up to two-thirds of overdoses in B.C. are due to the painkiller fentanyl, which has been detected in other opioids including heroin, methadone and codeine as well as cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamines.

Kendall says the greatest risk of overdose is when someone uses alone and older children should be encouraged to call 911 and be assured they will not face criminal consequences.

He says the overdose-reversing drug naloxone should also be provided and parents who are illicit drug users themselves should carry it and be prepared to perform rescue breathing before help arrives, potentially preventing brain damage.

The Canadian Press