Drug Addiction in the Suburbs: What Can Concerned Parents Do?

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Contributor: Megan Wilson, BS, CADC, Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

Drug addiction, especially with pharmaceutical medications, is always an area of great concern throughout our country. Moreover, addiction in the suburbs can be as common as it is in urban areas. So what are parents to do within the confines of their own families?

The first step suburban parents need to do is question their perception of the characteristics of someone who struggles with substance use. Stereotypes of an addict can be the basis for denial for both the individual struggling with substances and for their loved ones.

Typecasts must be challenged. The thought of “my child would never take drugs” could blind a parent from awareness of the warning signs of substance use.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 1 million youths (ages 12-17) meet the criteria for a substance use disorder. These individuals can also be at risk of dying from an overdose.

Once parents realize that addiction does not discriminate and can, in fact, impact their child, they can heighten their awareness to warning signs of addiction in the suburbs and in their children.

Addiction in the Suburbs

Physical Signs

Any dramatic change in a child’s appearance is worthy of note. Sudden weight gain or loss, altered appetite, inability to sleep can be connected to addiction, as can be nosebleeds, changes in the appearance of their eyes, or shakes and seizures.

A decline in personal hygiene or grooming habits could also be a manifestation of drug involvement.

African American man teaching about Addiction in the SuburbsBehavioral Signs

Any disruption in school regarding grades, attendance, or friends is relevant as is a lack of interest in hobbies or sports.

Shifts in friends, asking for money, or missing valuables around the home is often a sign of drug usage.

Missing prescriptions is absolutely a red flag. Extreme behavior changes such as isolation, secrecy, and lying are critical.

Psychological Signs

An unexplained personality or attitude change in a child is important to watch out for along with changes in mood, extreme irritability, or even sudden laughter for no reason. Intense lethargy or paranoia should be considered worrisome.

The bottom line is: if the child that a parent “used to know” is no longer there and a stranger has seemingly taken their place, drug affiliation should be considered. From that point, a discussion should take place.

A parent concerned about addiction in the suburbs and their children needs to express their concern and love to the child, free from accusations, condemnation, or judgment. Only then, might a child tell the truth about possible drug use.

Denial is far more the expected response. At that point, a parent must establish and maintain boundaries for safety.

Young asian man studying about drug abuseIf the child appears impaired, they will not be allowed to use the car, or a cell phone will be taken away. Routine drug testing can be required by the parents to ensure sobriety.

If all attempts by a parent fail, professional help may be required. It is imperative to understand that the earlier the intervention, the better the chances for complete and lasting recovery.


[1]: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/national-drug-alcohol-facts-week/drug-facts-chat-day-drug-use

About the Author:

Megan Wilson photo

Megan Wilson, BS, CADC has been working at Timberline Knolls since 2013.  She facilitates psycho-educational group therapy, completes substance use assessments, and takes on the leadership role of the Addictions Specialist team.

She also individually meets with residents to support a better understanding and application of 12-step recovery.

Thank you to Timberline Knolls for providing this article.

Timberline Knolls is a leading residential treatment center for women and adolescent girls, ages 12 and older, with eating disorders, substance abuse, trauma, mood and co-occurring disorders. Located in suburban Chicago, residents receive excellent clinical care from a highly trained professional staff on a picturesque 43-acre wooded campus. An adult partial hospitalization program (PHP) is also available in nearby Orland Park, Ill., for women to step down or direct admit. For more information on Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, call 630-755-5173. We are also on Facebook – Timberline Knolls, LinkedIn – Timberline Knolls and Twitter – @TimberlineToday.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on March 12, 2018
Reviewed and Updated by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 12, 2021
Published on AddictionHope.com

About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.