Suburbia is often idealized as the best place to raise a family. Parents who moved to the suburbs in search of white picket fences and neighborhood block parties might be surprised to learn that their teens are still at risk.
Violence and even gang activity remain a threat to suburban teens, according to a report by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Suburban areas saw the largest increase in gang activity, at 22 percent, followed closely by rural communities. Part of the problem, according to the report, is the lack of gang awareness among suburban community leaders, parents and school staff.
Drug use is also on the upswing in suburban areas – and not just expected threats such as marijuana and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medication abuse. Heroin use among teenagers is increasing at an alarming rate, and experts report the drug, long considered to be prevalent only in urban areas, is infiltrating the suburbs.
Unfortunately, all across suburban America, young people are getting hooked on a drug parents never suspected they needed to fear.
National data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that the number of teens dying from heroin abuse has skyrocketed. In 1999, 198 people between the ages of 15 and 24 died of a heroin overdose, compared to 510 deaths in 2009, the latest year data was taken.
More teens are seeking treatment for heroin abuse, too — the figure jumped from 4,414 to more than 21,000 (about 80 percent) between 1999 and 2009. Ninety percent of teen heroin addicts are white, according to the data.
According to NBC News, prescription painkillers are the link between suburban teens and heroin. Teens addicted to pills like Oxycodone can find the same high in heroin, which is cheaper, more intense and easier to buy.
However, there are many benefits of the suburbs. Suburban families usually have access to a variety of after-school programs, community events and organizations to provide supervised activities and encourage positive use of time.
Whether your family lives in the country, in a planned suburban community or in an urban, high-rise condo, there are many easy things parents can do to combat these growing threats to teens. Explore the community together with your kids. Find safe after-school places for them to hang out, and keep close tabs on them. And get to know others in your neighborhood to establish a community. It takes a village to raise a child today – and it doesn’t matter where that village is located.
To learn more about how Compass Rose Academy can help your family, visitwww.compassroseacademy.org.