Adults Not Leaving the Family Home: The Impact of This Trend on Substance Use Disorders

The number of adults (age 25 and up) living with their parents is higher than ever before. Economic issues like high costs of living, student debt, and unemployment seem to be the most significant reasons for this trend. But when we take a closer look, there are many reasons why some adults never leave their family home.

For the adults who do leave but move back, the media has given them the patronizing nickname – “boomerangs.” Some people are perfectly happy with this living arrangement, while others view moving back home as the ultimate sign of failure.

Wherever you stand on this issue, there is no doubt that the increased number of adults who don’t leave the family home and other economic burdens have contributed to the rise of substance use disorders (SUDs).

Welcome (Back) Home

According to a recent survey, the #1 reason why younger adults move back with their parents is because of a breakup with a partner. The majority of returning adults are 30 or younger. Other top reasons include saving money for a home purchase (or similar investment), losing a job, regular debt, and student loan debt. After the age of 40, the main reason that adults move in with their parents is to take care of them.

Cost of Living Doesn’t Explain the Trend, But Unemployment Might

The Pew Research Center reports that the number of adults (age 25 to 35) who are living with their parents has nearly doubled from 8% in 1981 to 15% in 2016. But higher real estate prices do not seem to be the issue. For example, in 2018, over 25% of adults (age 25 to 40) lived with their parents in Riverside, California, where the average price of a single-family home was $360,000. Conversely, in Seattle, Washington – where the average sale price was over $500,000 – only 12% of adults lived with their parents. Yet in those same areas of the country, the unemployment rate for adults (age 25 to 40) is almost 9%, far greater than the unemployment rate for the U.S. population.

The Relationship Between Unemployment and Substance Use

It does appear that unemployment, which is likely to increase dramatically due to the COVID-19 virus, may be a significant factor in developing SUDs. Between the years 2005 and 2011, almost 20% of unemployed people reported using illegal drugs, compared to 10% for part-time workers and 8% for full-time workers. When unemployment goes up, so does the consumption of alcohol and drugs. One study found that every time the unemployment rate increases by one percent, the opioid death rate increases by 3.6 percent. 

The trend of adults living with their parents creates even more opportunities for unemployed people to succumb to addiction. Being unemployed leads to financial hardships and limited responsibilities, which creates a higher risk of abusing alcohol and drugs during the extra “free time.” When people are unemployed, they feel more stressed and may use substances to cope. After losing a job, your likelihood of developing depression also rises the longer you remain unemployed, and depression is a major risk factor for addiction. 

Another way that unemployment and SUDs are related involves treatment options. Most people get their health insurance through their jobs. When they lose their jobs, they lose their insurance as well, creating an extra barrier to getting treatment.  

Even if you are employed, substance use can still have an impact. Drug use can reduce a person’s ability to obtain and maintain a job, especially if the job requires drug testing. In jobs where injury rates are high, such as mining or construction, workers often use drugs and alcohol to cope with injuries and dangerous working conditions. 

Parents Who Enable Addicts

While some adults move back or stay home for valid reasons like divorce,  job loss, or another crisis, there are others who have SUDs they could not manage if they lived on their own. It can be very challenging for parents to set limits with their adult children who are fighting addiction. There’s a difference between loving someone and enabling them, and enabling is much more common than you think. 

Parents who enable their adult children actually help them continue their addiction, often by not allowing them to experience the consequences of it. Enabling can range from buying them things that allow them to spend more money on drugs to making excuses and covering for them.

In addition to providing housing, parents can enable in the following ways:

  • Paying for a phone – Addicts need their phones to get drugs. If you pay their phone bill, you make it easier for them.
  • Bailing them out of jail – Jail can be much safer for an addicted person than being on the streets. Only bail your child out if they agree to go directly from jail to treatment.
  • Car payments, insurance, repairs, or gas money – A car is the second favorite item of an addict after their phone. It gives them a place to use drugs and a way to get them.

The longer that parents enable an addict, the more likely it is that the addict will never receive treatment for their SUD. In some cases, the addict overdoses before they can be convinced to quit. We can help your family work together to develop a plan to get your loved one into a treatment plan that works.

Burning Tree Lodge serves people who struggle with addiction, co-occurring disorders, and find themselves ready to accept help. Our specialists focus on meditation and holistic practices to help build a better recovery for you. We include your family and meet you where you are emotionally and spiritually to support your journey of healing.

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Dear Renewal Lodge Visitors,

My name is John Bruna, co-founder of the Mindfulness in Recovery® Institute, and more importantly, a grateful member of the recovery community. I am incredibly fortunate to have found my recovery in 1984. Of course, I did not achieve continuous recovery through willpower or my own efforts, but through the guidance and caring support of countless others that selflessly taught me how to live through the 12 Steps.

My journey of recovery brought this once homeless, shame-based, traumatized, insecure young man to a life far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I discovered self-worth, the joy of helping others, the gifts of parenting and grandparenting, and most importantly the ability to live a meaningful and purposeful life with integrity.

One of the greatest gifts of recovery is that I have the opportunity to give back and help others discover their self-worth, dignity, and the skills to fully live lives that they find truly meaningful. This is the inspiration for developing the skills of Mindfulness in Recovery® (MIR) to meet the needs of new generations struggling with alcohol and other substance use disorders. MIR is a set of evidence-based skills designed to help people fully integrate their tools of recovery in ways that are personalized, practical, and in alignment with their deepest values.

While we train counselors and therapists throughout the United States and abroad, I personally have chosen to work directly with the amazing team and clients at Renewal Lodge to develop the model MIR 12-step program for the nation. I choose Renewal Lodge because of the vision of its mission and the dedication of its team. Renewal Lodge is an extremely rare environment in which the staff embodies the very mindfulness and 12-step practices and skills they offer their clients. The results have been beyond my expectations. It is an honor to be here and I treasure my personal time with every client I meet.

With Gratitude,

John Bruna
John Bruna
Director of Mindfulness
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