(Part 1 in series on older children of pot-using parents, Custody issues, Part 2, children in BHO explosions and Part 3, children who fall.)
When Colorado fourth-graders were caught buying and selling their grandparents’ pot at a school in 2014, it became clear that the age level for first-time drug use in America has changed. A year ago, there was also an incident when a three-year old girl brought marijuana in a backpack to a Head Start Center near Pittsburgh.
A survey released in December showed that 6 percent of high school seniors are daily pot users, a very bad omen for our children’s future. The statistics are worse in marijuana states such as Colorado and Washington. In Vancouver, Washington, 8 percent of 8th grader, 19% of 10th graders and 27% of 12th graders report recent pot use.
Each drug has at least one quality that makes worse than all other drugs, and for marijuana it is what it does to the teen-aged brain and motivation, according to Ed Gogek, author of Marijuana Debunked.
Problems on the San Juan Islands
Kathleen Bartholomew, a nurse and a grandmother in the San Juan Islands of Washington, explains what it’s like living in an area with long-time marijuana users: “Of the 7th grade pot users, 80% received the pot from their stoner parents.”
“My own granddaughter went from being a straight-A student skipping her sophomore year in a private school to a pot-smoking 15-year-old in the public school system. Her story started in 7th grade when a few seniors taught her how to smoke marijuana at lunch,” Bartholomew explained.
“After having a drug coalition for 10 years, we have made zero progress in convincing teens that pot is harmful – because so many parents smoke it in the home. Of 12th graders, there was no change in their belief system after a decade of education.” Here’s a link to the drug coalition’s marijuana education page.
Also in the San Juan Islands, a young man with mental illness issues died tragically from dehydration in jail last year. Keaton Farris suffered from bipolar disorder; a history of marijuana use would be consistent with the tragic ending. The risks for mental illness from early marijuana use cannot be adequately addressed in an environment that glorifies pot use. (His mom sold t-shirts in his honor at Seattle Hemp Fest, which doesn’t prove that Keaton used marijuana, but suggests his family had a peculiar fondness for the weed. The family has reached a settlement in the case.)
Multi-Generational Pot use in California
California has a large medical marijuana program — full of problems. One mother was shocked to find her son first received medical marijuana at age 11 — three years before she knew about it. A doctor didn’t prescribe it; he got it from someone in school whose mother had a medical marijuana card. So clearly parents pass it to children, with or without their knowledge.
Another grandmother in California described how her grandson’s father went about getting him a medical marijuana card.
Parents who use marijuana go to lengths to rationalize their use of pot. Some say they have more patience and can play better with their children while stoned. These parents are at risk for addiction and building so much tolerance that they will have more anxiety and anger when not using.
With many parents and grandparents using pot, we seem to be creating a multi-generational society of drug addiction. Drug addiction today is multi-substance addiction, making the treatment more complicated and the prognosis worse than it was in the past.
One member of AA and Narcotics Anonymous in Chico, California, explained what happens to multi-generational drug users when they try to get clean. “I need to teach them to dress, bathe and feed the baby, brush their teeth and floss, all skills they did not learn growing up. They must start life anew.” Sobriety gives them hope.
People laud the success of anti-smoking campaigns but what has really changed youth smoking rates is the lack of adults who still smoke cigarettes. It has become socially unacceptable. How can an anti-pot campaign for kids can’t work when more adults are eating pot candy, or smoking it, and it’s advertised everywhere?
Recently a father from Washington who drove recklessly and was stoned forced his 12-year-old daughter to walk home. Some of these parents really don’t seem to be aware of the trauma they may be forcing their children to experience. Traumatized children will be more inclined to abuse marijuana, alcohol and other drugs.
We need to break cycles of addiction if we are to have healthier adults who don’t follow their parents’ dysfunctional cycles. Compared to 40 or 50 years ago when alcohol was the primary problem, we now have multi-substance addiction. If we stopped substance abuse we could end about 70% of child abuse. We will have more success in rooting out problems by getting to their roots in substance abuse, not possible when we are normalizing drug use.
Finally, we need to be in compliance with international treaties, especially The Rights of the Child Treaty, and as long as we allow marijuana legalization, we are out of compliance with the treaties. For more information, read On Marijuana, edited by Pamela McColl, and Marijuana Debunked, by Ed Gogek, MD.
Although many very young children die from the abuse and neglect by parents who get stoned, this series concludes that the older children won’t die because of parent’s pot use. The risks are for their long-term psychological well-being. (Read Part 1: custody problems, Part 2: treating burns from hash oil explosions. Part 3 explains the widespread problem of parents who give marijuana to their children. See our chart of the 53 deaths related to parents’ and caregivers’ pot use. )