Last week I was worried about sex. This week, it’s drugs. As the parent of a teenager, the arrest of a Naperville high schooler for selling heroin set my mom radar on high alert. I’m not alone.
Media across the area reported on the arrest and residents commented. I found a puzzling pattern in the comments; people can’t believe that “something like this” can happen in Naperville.
I’m surprised that so many area residents are surprised. Naperville may once have been a quaint, isolated little hamlet beside the DuPage River, but those days are long gone.
There are more than 145,000 people living here. Our neighbor, Aurora, is home to nearly 200,000 people. Together, the two cities comprise the largest metropolitan area outside of Chicago. So, while Naperville’s downtown is still quaint, our city is hardly a hamlet.
There are five public high schools serving more than 15,450 students in our two school districts. Call me a cynic, but there are bound to be drug problems with a teen population that large.
It’s comforting to think, as some who’ve commented on the heroin problem have, that “gangs from Chicago” are bringing the drugs to our children. According to the Naperville police, though, it’s our children who are going to the drugs. No one is forcing our children to do heroin; they want it so much they will hop on 88 and drive an hour to get it.
Heroin use caused seven deaths in Naperville last year. That’s a tragedy, no matter what age the victims were. But the focus on teen heroin use is obscuring a greater problem. Nationally, more of our children are smoking marijuana. In fact, while cigarette smoking is on the decline among teens, marijuana use is on the rise and what the kids are smoking is much more powerful than the stuff sold years ago.
The fastest growing drug problem, though, is abuse of prescription drugs. Most teens get their first prescription high free—from the medicine cabinet at home—but the cost gets steep when stealing is no longer practical. Heroin costs a lot less than prescription drugs and is actually easier to get.
More than one person responding to stories on our heroin problem felt the police needed to do more to keep drugs out of our children’s hands. To me, that smacks of scapegoating. Kids get drugs because they want them.
Parents are the first line of defense in keeping kids from wanting to get high. We have to stop being surprised that children here—or anywhere—are doing drugs. We need to start talking and keep talking. We can’t just sit the kids down one day, lay down the law and expect them to, as one parent I know said, “Never do drugs.” We need to do simple things together, like sitting down to dinner, that show our children we care about them and what they are doing.