Drug Addictions Becoming More Prevalent in Suburban Youth

In a recent article, Dr. Kevin Hill, psychiatrist-in-charge at the drug and alcohol abuse program at McLean Hospital, a psychiatric branch of Harvard Medical School and a worldwide resource on substance use issues, explains why more young people from suburban families are suffering with addiction issues. “There is certainly a heritable component, a genetic predisposition toward substance abuse, but depending on what is going on in a person’s life, it may or may not express itself,” he said. “Think of addiction as a chronic medical illness, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.” He added that environment plays a part, but family history is important as well. “If I come from a family of alcoholics, then in a social setting I need to be more cognizant of my vulnerabilities than other people do,” he added.

Hill cautions that opioids have become a greater risk than other substances. “Research shows that if a person is exposed to prescription opioids or heroin and starts to use, they are far more likely to become dependent on opioids.” Hill points out that the people that he sees in treatment are the young people who may have interpersonal problems with parents or peers. “Often the kids we see don’t have healthy coping mechanisms. They don’t know how to cope with what seems like standard stuff to other kids – graduating from high school, dealing with college prospects,” he says. Pressure from parents or parental disapproval, of life choices or romantic relationships, is a common thing that people cite when they enter treatment. Many college graduates turn to substances when they cannot find work. Hill says that unless all of the issues and stressors that face these youth are addressed through psychotherapy, the addiction will not be healed. He adds, “We want to know what is going on in their lives. We treat the whole family.”

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jess


    July 14th, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    It’s disappointing how these young people, who can do so much, end up with addictions and meetings things up nit only for themselves but even others around them, at times. It’s obvious they haven’t had proper guidance and support in their growing up years.

    And I think this topic should be a warning to all parents that they should educate their kids and stay involved in their kid’s activities.

  • Pauline


    July 14th, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    I agree with Jess these are the kids who supposedly have it all. Why they choose to waste their opportunities on drugs is beyond me.

  • jane harrison

    jane harrison

    July 14th, 2011 at 8:17 PM

    The problem is that drugs are so widely available now that it’s easy for kids to get some if they want them. Every high school and college has dealers within them and word gets around who to go to. The smallest of towns have drug problems too and they are not confined to the poorest of the poor skulking in some dark alley, which is the image folks have of drug addicts.

    Many drug addicts are teens sitting in their bedrooms in the comfort of their own home taking mommy’s prescription drugs again. Until parents realize that their child who’s popping mom’s pills is not that much different from the guy in the back alley buying drugs, it will be a very big problem.

  • Gerald


    July 15th, 2011 at 5:21 AM

    War on drugs-here’s it’s result. And not to mention the Billions of dollars spent each year. And where does all that money come from? Why, from the tax that we pay on our hard-earned money,of course!

  • Claudia


    July 15th, 2011 at 11:56 AM

    I think the major reason is the easy availability,the high prevalence of usage in peers and others the teen may know and generally low enforcement of law in these areas that promotes such addictions.All these issues need to be addressed an not just an individual one.

  • Marina Sullivan

    Marina Sullivan

    July 15th, 2011 at 6:11 PM

    Middle class children also have a larger disposable income than children from less affluent families. They get bigger allowances, making it easy for them to buy drugs.

    More and more parents apparently want to be their child’s buddy rather than parenting them. No wonder the kids become less able to cope with life and turn to substance abuse. They have no guidance or example to look up to and follow.

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