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Heroin has become a problem of epidemic proportion in the St. Louis area. If you think that it doesn’t affect your kids, you are dead wrong...

Heroin and prescription painkillers are a threat in every county and school district in the greater St. Louis area. If they haven't already had to yet, your kids will be faced with making a decision about whether they will be tempted to give it a try. Visiting this website is a great first step to becoming educated about these drugs in order to help your child avoid heading in this direction. We encourage you to read through all sections to arm yourself with the basic information necessary to be able to discuss the dangers and realities of these drugs with your child. Truly, the very best prevention available to any child is having parents who are aware of substance abuse issues, provide a good example of role modeling, establish firm boundaries of family rules and expectations, communicate openly and frequently with their children (starting in their elementary school years and continuing into high school) and are actively and consistently involved in their child’s life.

Unfortunately, many young people who begin using will actually be able to function well for a time, and the warning signs (see sidebar below) may not show up until the child is well into addiction. We cannot stress enough that active, involved parenting is key. Difficult as it may be, especially in the high school years, you need to make it your business to know where your child is at all times, who they are with and what they are doing. Parents need to talk to other parents. Do not be afraid to pick up the phone to verify, coordinate and speak up with other parents if you have any concerns at all about what might be going on with your or their kids.

Whether you just have questions, or have a child who is in trouble, NCADA is a place where you can turn for help. Do not hesitate to give us a call at 314.962.3456 (or if you are outside the greater St. Louis area, click here to find the Missouri regional support center nearest you.)


Dan Duncan
Director of Community Services
National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse (NCADA) - St. Louis Area

If you suspect your child is using

If you are concerned that your child may be using heroin or prescription painkillers, getting professional help outside the family will likely be very important. If you suspect your child has a problem, your first step may be to have an assessment done to determine if they are in fact using drugs, and if they are suffering from dependency or addiction. If so, the assessment will also help determine what resources are available that match up with your family’s needs. Assessments are offered through most treatment services. In the greater St. Louis area, you can also contact NCADA for an assessment, which is free for children age 19 and under. Click here if you live outside of the St. Louis area.

Adolescent Assessment Services Brochure
view brochure

NCADA offers free Adolescent Assessments
in the greater St. Louis area

If your child is addicted or struggling with relapse

If you know your child is currently addicted, has received treatment in the past but has relapsed or continues to relapse repeatedly, it may be necessary to find treatment that goes beyond what your child has received in the past, whether it be a more intensive level of care and/or treatment whose duration lasts longer than your child has received in the past. The most important and best advice we can offer is to not give up, do your best to help and not enable (see What is Enabling?), and to continue to push for treatment and participation in self-help programs such as Narcotics Anonymous or Heroin Anonymous.

There is much more information available on addiction and treatment on NCADA’s website. We encourage you to take the time to click here and visit this site to learn more.

If your child is on prescription painkillers

You need to be aware - almost all of the young people who use heroin have used prescription painkillers first!

Any teen who has painkillers such as oxycontin, oxycodone or vicodin prescribed to them should be very closely monitored by a physician and parent. This cannot be stated enough. Unless absolutely necessary, it is preferable a teen be prescribed a less powerful painkiller. For anyone taking strong painkillers, there is a potential for a physical dependency to develop - this in and of itself is not necessarily addiction. With a physician’s assistance, the individual can be weaned off the drug with little or no residual impact. However, if left on such a drug or if it is strictly taken recreationally, the potential for addiction is significant.

We encourage parents to take care of their own needs by participating in self-help options just for them. Regular attendance of self-help meetings can help parents find the kind of comfort, guidance and support they need by others who have been there or who are also currently there.

Here are some of the self-help options in the St. Louis area for parents or loved ones dealing with someone suffering from an addiction, as well as support groups for those who have lost their loved one (also available as a printable list here). For options outside of St. Louis, visit or

Because I Love You (Formerly Toughlove)
A support group for parents of troubled children – not restricted to teen children.
Monday evenings
7:30 pm
First United Methodist Church
801 First Capitol Drive
St. Charles, MO

CODA (Codependents Anonymous)
A self-help group for those who deal with codependency issues.
There are currently nine groups per week that meet in various parts of the Greater St. Louis Area.
For more information visit or call 636-397-8676.

H.O.P.E. (Hope 4 Opiate Addicts Parents Exists)
For parents, siblings and loved ones of heroin addicts. Meet with others who understand how this affects your life. You are not alone.
Monday evenings
7-8:15 pm
St. Anthony's Hospital Campus, Anthony House
Tesson Ferry and Kennerly Road
Joe Brennan: 314-800-6274 or
Bryan Gavan: 636-575-1551

A support group for family and friends of addicts.
There are three meetings in the Greater St. Louis Area each week.
Meeting information is available at or by calling 800-477-6291.

Parents of Addicted Teens Support Group
For parents and family members of addicted teens.
Wednesday evenings
7:30 pm
CenterPointe Hospital
4801 Weldon Spring Parkway
St. Charles, MO 63304
Marilyn Smashey: 636-614-6343 or
Jon Gergecerff: 314-401-7994

Heroin Loss Support Group
A support group for families who have lost a loved one to heroin. This is an open-ended group and families can join any Sunday.
Sunday evenings
Harris House
8315 S. Broadway
St. Louis, MO 63111
Mary Ann Lemonds: 314-330-7586

Substance Abuse Loss Support Group
A support group for families who have lost a loved one to substance abuse, including heroin.
1st and 3rd Mondays
6:00 pm
Recovery 360
1141 S 7th Street
St. Louis, MO 63104