Monthly Archives: May 2011

Doctors Find that Synthetic Marijuana Causes Psychosis

The Los Angeles Times reported this week that synthetic marijuana, known on the street as Spice, can cause a lengthy bout of psychosis in some users, according to research presented at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting held this week in Honolulu. Doctors at the Naval Hospital San Diego reported on 10 patients who were hospitalized for psychosis after using Spice. The synthetic cannabis is also known as K2, Blaze or Red X Dawn. The drug consists of plant material coated with synthetic chemicals meant to produce a high similar to marijuana. However, symptoms in the 10 patients, who were ages 21 to 25, included auditory and visual hallucinations, paranoid delusions and thoughts of suicide. Most of the patients recovered from the psychosis in five to eight days but symptoms lasted as long as three months in some people. Synthetic marijuana has become an issue in the military, in substance-abuse treatment facilities and other settings because it cannot be detected in standard, urine-based drug tests. Last year, the DEA banned five chemicals found in K2. However, the ban will last only one year with an option to extend the ban for an additional six months. A bill introduced by Senators Grassley and Feinstein would permanently schedule 15 of the source chemicals identified in K2 and similar products, and place them as Schedule I narcotics. Coalitions across the country have been working to permanently ban the chemicals, as well.


Parenting 101

May 2011
1. Our 14yo son admitted to smoking pot once – he seems genuinely remorseful and swears it won’t happen again but I’m not sure where we go from here. Should we ground him, drug test him, or what? Advice?
Good for you for taking this seriously! While there certainly are some young people who try pot once and do not like it, there are far more that tell their parents what they think they want to know to avoid getting caught. Without some specific information it is difficult to tell you whether to ground him or not, but two good general guidelines to go by are 1) to honor any consequence he was told there would be before hand and 2) to know that to effectively ground your child, you have to ground yourself also. It is important to discuss with him the circumstances around his use so that you can help him avoid the factors that led to that poor decision.

Drug testing is absolutely appropriate and warranted. It serves the purpose of giving you some objective data regarding his drug free status, but perhaps more importantly it gives him an extra reason to say “no” next time the opportunity to smoke pot arises. Knowing he may be held accountable can be a powerful tool to help him make good decisions. For testing to be meaningful it needs to be done randomly, and frequently for awhile. If cause for suspicion is given, testing should be done by a reputable facility, under observation, and he needs not to know when it will be done (this is one test you do not want him studying to pass!).

Also make sure to keep his attitude and beliefs about Marijuana an open topic of discussion between you and him. He is at an age when attitudes and beliefs can change drastically and quickly. Try to learn how he forms his views and take the opportunity to both teach specific information about Marijuana and to teach about decision making.

It is a known fact that children do such a good job of covering their tracks while using drugs that the average parent learns about their child’s serious drug problem about a year after it starts. Knowing this, it is difficult to take the risk of not being pro-active. Being pro-active is a far cry from being over reactive. An over reactive parent will begin spying on their child and make all kinds of unreasonable restrictions that are not predicated on things their child did, but on what they think the child is doing. A pro-active parent begins paying closer attention to where their child spends their spare time, who they hang with, their attitude towards themselves and others, and takes note to see if anything adds up to possible personality change.

2. My husband and I met in AA more than 15 years ago and have been clean and sober ever since. Our kids are 9 & 10 and I’m afraid their questions about whether we’ve ever used alcohol and drugs are just around the corner. When they ask, how honest should we be?

Congratulations on your and your husband’s recovery successes! Your question is a common challenge for many parents. When dealing with your children’s questions it is important to remember that honest and open are two different qualities. There is never a legitimate reason to be dishonest with your child; and real and long lasting damage can come from even seemingly harmless amounts of lying. There is, however, no requirement for complete openness or graphic description. Children can also be harmed by graphic disclosure that is neither age nor relationship appropriate. The best approach is to explain to them that you did make mistakes as a youth, and offer to share with them what you learned from these experiences. When it comes to the specific details of the things you did, explain to them that the greatest value for you is the knowledge you gained from learning to make the right decisions, and one of the most helpful things you learned was to leave the bad memories in the past. It is not only o.k. but healthy to keep the detailed description of “what it was like” limited. Where exactly to draw the line is certainly a subjective and tricky field to negotiate and you may find benefit in speaking to other recovering parents about their experiences or seeking some targeted guidance from an appropriate professional.

It will be very important that your children understand the disease concept and their own increased risk for a chemical dependency due to genetics. It is important that they understand that you and your husband are very fortunate to be clean and sober and leading productive lives and that most people who fall into the clutches of alcohol and other drugs do not escape.

And through it all remember that you are their parent not their friend (these are mutually exclusive roles) and that it is absolutely all right to strive to not have your children repeat your mistakes. Never let the “You can’t discipline me for it because you did it” argument hold any water, it doesn’t.

The questions above are from parents who live in the South Bay. The responses have been provided by members of the South Bay Coalition whose expertise and experience lies in parenting, counseling, and/or substance abuse prevention. The South Bay Coalition is a non-profit partnership of agencies working to prevent substance abuse among our community’s youth. For local resources or more information, please visit our website or contact:

Parenting 101

April 2011

1. My 14yo son has always been a good kid – good grades, well-behaved, active in sports, etc. Lately he’s been spending a lot of time alone in his room on the computer – becoming withdrawn and secretive and gets fairly agitated when I come into his room. How much privacy should I allow him? And should I worry about other issues like drugs? Thank you.

Age 14 is a typical age when young adults need more privacy. Most often they are dealing with their own emerging sexuality. Your son sounds like a child of great parenting. A rule of thumb about privacy is that everyone should be given the privacy they ask for. However, privacy, like privileges, must be earned. We would suggest you regularly check the websites visited by your son. This is different than directly reading your son’s e-mails or journal, a level of privacy invasion that would need very, very serious circumstances to justify. (If you’re not sure how to do this, computer experts at Office Depot, Best Buy, etc. should be able to give you a quick lesson on the phone.) Knowing what sites are being visited is appropriate information for a parent to review, and really all parents who allow their children internet access should monitor this. The content your son chooses to view may help guide you to some of the issues he is struggling with.

His being withdrawn, secretive and agitated when you come into his room is definitely cause for concern, but does not in and of itself point to drugs. If it is determined that your son is not viewing inappropriate web sites or engaging in irresponsible behavior then allow him the privacy he asks for. It is your responsibility as the parent to make sure his behavior in his room is appropriate. A good adolescent family counselor may be in order either way.

2. My 12yo daughter is a late bloomer – most of her friends are already interested in boys, clothes, and make-up. Because my daughter isn’t, some of her “friends” are starting to call her names and imply that she’s gay. She is becoming very stressed and now she dreads going to school. I need advice on how to handle this situation.

It’s good to see you put “friends” in quotations as their behavior clearly shows that they are not performing that role in your daughter’s life…which doesn’t mean that your daughter does not consider them friends or that leaving them for new ones would be an easy and/or simple transition for her. School authorities do need to be made aware of what is going on as this falls under bullying behavior which is beginning to be taken more seriously by schools. Reassure your daughter frequently that she is just fine and that her lack of interest in boys, clothes and make up at age 12 is perfectly normal and healthy. Try to find ways to increase her interaction with other girls who are aging appropriately. Proactively seeking out positive interaction is usually a far easier task than cutting off negative interaction. If her level of ongoing emotional distress warrants it, seek professional counseling or therapy for her.
It is one thing to be drawn to others who are most similar to you, so it is part of the natural path of teens that they shift friends due to changing interests. However, it is not natural, okay, or acceptable to attack others who are different (or you perceive to be different) from you. Definitely seek some help from the school guidance team.

The questions above are from parents who live in the South Bay. The responses have been provided by members of the South Bay Coalition whose expertise and experience lies in parenting, counseling, and/or substance abuse prevention. The South Bay Coalition is a non-profit partnership of agencies working to prevent substance abuse among our community’s youth. For local resources or more information, please visit our website or contact:

Study Finds that Internet Use Can Lead to Risky Behavior

Medical News Today reports that there is a strong association between computer and internet use in teens and risky behavior including drug use, drunkenness and unprotected sex.

“This research is based on social cognitive theory, which suggests that seeing people engaged in a behavior is a way of learning that behavior,” explained lead researcher Valerie Carson, a doctoral candidate in School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. “Since adolescents are exposed to considerable screen time – over 4.5 hours on average each day – they’re constantly seeing images of behaviors they can then potentially adopt.”

This research, recently published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine, suggests that future studies should examine the specific content adolescents are being exposed to in order to help strengthen current screen time guidelines for youth.

The researchers found that high computer use was associated with approximately 50 per cent increased engagement with a cluster of six multiple risk behaviors, including smoking, drunkenness, non-use of seatbelts, cannabis and illicit drug use, and unprotected sex. High television use was also associated with a modestly increased engagement in these behaviors.

One explanation behind this finding is that a considerable amount of advertising that used to be shown on TV is now being shown on the Internet. In addition, computer usage by adolescents has increased considerably in recent years.

“TV and video games have more established protocols in terms of censorship, but Internet protocols aren’t as established,” Carson said. “Parents can make use of programs that control access to the Internet, but adolescents in this age group are quite savvy about technology and the Internet. It’s possible that these types of controls aren’t effective in blocking all undesirable websites.”