Category Archives: Marijuana Abuse

Lecture: Pain and Addiction: Challenges & Controversies

Past Lecture: Frontiers in Addiction Lectures Series

Presented by Thelma McMillen Center

Pain and Addiction: Challenges & Controversies

May 19, 2015

Hoffman Health Conference Center, 3315 Medical Center Drive, Torrance, CA

8:30 AM Breakfast

9:00 – 11:30 AM Lecture


Mel Pohl, M.D. Medical Director
Las Vegas Central Recovery
Las Vegas, Nevada

Attendees Will:

  • List examples of the complicated co-occurring diagnoses of chronic pain and addiction when they both occur in an individual
  • List implications for treatment interventions with chronic pain with specific discussion of central pain syndromes
  • Describe and show brain mechanisms for the experience of pain and suffering

FREE Continental Breakfast Provided

RSVP not required.
Call (310)-257-5758 for further information.

Torrance Memorial’s Health Conference Center
3315 Medical Center Dr. Torrance, Calif. 90505 (off Skypark Dr; between Hawthorne & Crenshaw)

(off Lomita on Hospital & Technology Dr.), near the Emergency area. SHUTTLE AVAILABLE.

Target Audience: MDs and Psychologists (*), RN (BRN Provider #300), LCSW & MFT (PCE #1881), CAADAC (2S-02-489-0716), CAADE (CP20955C0816) and allied health professionals.

Torrance Memorial Medical Center is accredited by the Institute for Medical Quality/California Medical Association (IMQ/CMA) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

Torrance Memorial Medical Center designates this live activity for a maximum of 2.5 AMA PRA Category I credits™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

This credit may also be applied to the CMA Certification in Continuing Medical Education.

Click here for Torrance Memorial Medical Center events.

Legalizing Drugs Won’t Make Organized Crime Disappear: Kerlikowske

U.S. National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske told an international meeting this week that legalizing drugs will not be a “silver bullet” that will make organized crime disappear.

Instead of arresting more users and building prisons for them, Kerlikowske said governments should focus on “a science-based approach to drug addiction as a disease of the brain that can be prevented, treated and from which people can recover,” Reuters reports.

Kerlikowske told the meeting that the U.S. federal government now spends more on drug prevention and treatment than domestic law enforcement. However, the United States is continuing its efforts to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations around the world, he added.

Some Latin American countries are considering relaxing penalties for personal drug use. Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina favors legalization as a way to reduce crime and violence. Uruguay has considered a proposal to legalize marijuana.

On Wednesday, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Executive Director Yury Fedotov said the agency’s new drug report found a decline in the use of traditional drugs such as heroin and cocaine in some parts of the world, and an increase in the use of prescription drugs and new psychoactive substances.

Source: Join Together

Parenting 101

March 2013

1.  As a single dad (sober 17years) to two teen-age sons I’m concerned about the move to legalize marijuana.  I’ve been honest with my kids about my own use, but how do I continue my “hard line” when everywhere I look and everything I hear about marijuana makes it seem as if it’s harmless.

Assuming that your use is in the past (if not, then stopping your own use is the most impactful thing you can do to keep them Marijuana free),  it is good to keep an ongoing dialogue with them about the dangers of Marijuana. One focus needs to be the facts known about Marijuana and the other the fact that something being legal does not make it harmless, alcohol being a great example.  The following link provides some excellent information regarding  the public health consequences associated with legalization:   Assuming that you stopped for some very specific reasons, it would be good to share with your sons any and all the negative effects, both physical and psychological, that contributed to your decision to stop.  You may also want to point out, that ‘if’ marijuana is legalized, it will most likely be restricted to persons over 21, like alcohol.  The simple reason is that individuals under 21 are not in a stage of life where they can completely understand the risks and impacts of substance use that could very well change the course of their lives.   Also,  research has repeatedly shown that parents can be the strongest influence on adolescents’ attitudes towards drug use.  Being a good example, sending a consistent message (one talk does not do it), and being  a good listener will help them find the truth.

2.  I just found out that my 17yo daughter is pregnant.  And if that’s not bad enough, she’s been smoking and drinking with her friends and, in general, been pretty much out of control for over a year.  She hasn’t been to a full day of school in ages and now I’m worried sick about the child she’s carrying.   I don’t know where to turn or what to do.

You are right to be concerned about the child your daughter  is carrying. Alcohol, Marijuana and Tobacco are all capable of having devastating negative impacts on that child. There is nothing sadder than permanent harm done to a complete innocent. There is help available for your daughter. There are a number of publicly funded treatment centers that specialize in pregnant or parenting women, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Substance Abuse Prevention and Control division can help you find one near you.  It is important to note that when a child is born and tests positive or shows clear signs of drug exposure, medical staff are mandated to report to DCFS and they will open a file.  If your daughter is unwilling to seek help you are faced with some hard choices.  There are a number of options you will want to explore to protect your unborn grandchild involving interventions with your daughter, boundaries on your support for her continued harmful behaviors, and involvement of the authorities. None of these are black and white or cut and dried. A good first step would be to engage a counselor or therapist knowledgeable about addiction to help you  find the right decisions for you.

Responses to the above parent questions 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 if you have questions you’d like our experts to respond to, contact:

Parenting 101

February 2013

1.  My ex-husband is an alcoholic & drug addict and has almost no contact with our two children (12 & 15).  My oldest daughter is beginning to worry me with her recent behavior.  She blames me for her father’s problems, and often talks about how weak he is to have become addicted.  I know some of her friends have been caught drinking and I’m afraid that’s the path she’s headed down.  Is there anything I can do to make sure she’s drug-free?

If your daughter has not had any education on the disease concept of addiction it would be a good thing to make sure she gets.  Addiction is a diagnosable brain disease, not a weakness and whether he is active in her life or not, he is her father and it is important she have a framework for understanding what has happened to him. As far as making sure your daughter stays drug free, there are no guaranteed methods but there’s a lot you can do to increase the chances that she does not damage her life with substance use.  Along with some education on the disease concept to understand her father’s affliction, she needs to understand her own genetic predisposition and the risks associated with it. She needs a very clear message from you stating the family boundaries about substance use and that no amount (alcohol included) is acceptable while she is a minor in your house. You can assist her in building positive aspects to her life; positive passions, hobbies and accomplishments are wonderful protective assets. Keep the dialogue about substance use open, it is not a one conversation issue. One of the most important things is to make sure you are as aware as possible of what she is or is not doing substance-wise. One of the easiest methods is to make a hard rule family tradition that she must give you a hug or a kiss on the cheek anytime she comes home, even if that means waking you up.  A significant degree of intoxication can be hidden by keeping even a small physical distance. If she is close enough for physical contact with you,  it will be much easier to discern if she has been drinking or using.   Finally, both your children would greatly benefit from speaking with a professional drug counselor, especially one that is a recovered addict.  They would be very helpful in helping your children understand the ‘psychology’ of an addict,  and clear up the misunderstanding that you had much to do with her father’s ‘problem’, and how they are at risk if they have similar thoughts as addicts do.

2.  My 17yo son is a good student – popular & gets good grades.  Several of his friends come from very financially successful families and I’ve heard them talk about having parties without their parents – how do I make sure my son understands that just because these friends have money and (maybe too much) freedom, doesn’t make them invincible when it comes to drinking or drugs?

The key to successfully raising children in these very difficult times (difficult because there are so many choices that have lifetime impacts) is communication, communication and communication.  Have frequent talks where you make clear your expectations.  Especially let him know that because you observe him making good choices, even when some of his friends are making poor ones, that you will continue to allow him the freedoms he enjoys, i.e. going to his friends ‘gatherings’ as long as he continues making good decisions. All people, especially teens need constant positive reinforcement to stay on the right path. He may act like he is tired of hearing this over and over, but the truth is it really helps you stay in touch.  Alternatively, if you are truly against his attending his friends’ unsupervised parties, you should make clear your unwillingness to approve his participation in those activities.   Remember,  the feeling of “invincibility” is a normal part of adolescent development.  It is all too easy for them to believe it “cannot happen to me or my friends.”   This means that you must make sure that your son has the information on both the risks of alcohol and drug use, as well as the very real and certain negative impacts it has. There is a lot of solid research showing the negative impacts of alcohol and other substances on the developing brain and discussing that with him is worthwhile.  Unfortunately, it is just not, by itself, tremendously effective. To give your son the best chance at avoiding substance use-driven harms, he also needs an ongoing dialogue with you about substance use and very clear boundaries that no level of such is acceptable while he is a minor in your house.

Responses to the above parent questions 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 if you have questions you’d like our experts to respond to, contact:

Parenting 101

August 2012

1.    I’m curious about these Hookah Bars I see around the area.  Do they have age restrictions?  Is it just “regular” tobacco smoked in them?  Do they serve alcohol, too?  I have two high schoolers and would not like it if they were able to go into those establishments. Thank you.

Hookah bars are subject to the same laws and regulations as apply to other methods of smoking tobacco  (cigarettes, cigars etc.), so these can change from city to city. It is illegal for those under 18 to be sold tobacco products in California and that includes Hookah bars. The tobacco products smoked at Hookah bars are often flavored. Hookah bars, may in some areas allow indoor smoking if their primary business is the sale of tobacco products, similar to a cigar shop/lounge. Any establishment that serves alcohol must follow all applicable state and local laws regarding patrons under age 21. Because Hookah bars do target a younger, generally college age crowd, they are not likely to serve alcohol, although some bars and clubs that serve alcohol have created outdoor hookah areas. Hookahs are just as dangerous and addictive as any other method of smoking tobacco and you are right in not wanting your children to be frequenting establishments that promote it. If there is a particular establishment that you are concerned about, you may want to check what licenses that establishment holds and what state and local laws apply. Selling of tobacco products to minors or allowing minors on the premises, if law forbids their presence, can lead to fines and loss of license for retailers.

2. We have a 4yo son who is very difficult to “control.”  If he doesn’t get what he wants he sometimes goes into a frenzy and throws huge fits (it doesn’t matter where we are).  It’s gotten so bad we hate to take him with us anywhere.  We’ve tried several different kinds of discipline but it seems nothing works.  Is he too young for counseling?  What about spanking?  Help, please.

All children learn different behavioral methods in order to attempt to get the things they want, or believe they want.  In truth, adults do this as well, only children have fewer resources or ‘power’ to be able to get what adults can.  As a result they resort to any behavior that provides them with results.  To a child, a good result is anything that gets others, especially parents, engaged.  A very simple rule of engagement is the more attention you can draw to yourself, the better the chance you will succeed in getting what you want.  This explains why your child goes into a “frenzy,” which is another term for a tantrum.

Your son may be only four years old, but he knows perfectly well that you not only dislike this behavior but it genuinely upsets you and puts him in a position of  ‘negotiating’ with you for things he wants.  It doesn’t matter whether he gets positive or negative attention, they both draw you into his personal drama to the point you will be very tempted to give him what he wants so he will stop.  Research shows that children first learn this type of manipulative behavior at 7 months of age, so at four years old, your son is an old pro.

It begins with small situations that ‘upset’ him, and over the years grows into what can seem like a frenzy.  Your only hope of stopping this behavior, and it can be stopped, is to learn to ‘disengage’ with your child.  When you first begin to ignore this behavior there is a natural reaction of him to increase his frenzied behavior in order to maintain the hook it has on you.  However, if you can hold out, the behavior will begin to fade.

At home, have a designated place where the child is in ‘time out’ until they settle down.  Do not engage in conversation, debate, or give any attention during this time.  If it happens at the market or in a restaurant, simply leave your cart, or excuse yourself from the table, and remove  both you and the child from the immediate environment.  Put him in a place you temporarily can use for time out that is just outside the store or restaurant and explain that he can return when his ‘tantrum’ is over.  You may have to leave early from the store or the restaurant, but these small sacrifices will pay big dividends in the end.

From what you describe of your child, he will be more likely to change when your parenting changes than by listening to words that a stranger (counselor) would tell him.  Children process actions much better than words.  Since you will be the one with him when inappropriate behavior surfaces, you are in a far better position to provide guidance.  While very moderate spanking, that never leaves red marks, may be legally accepted, it has not been shown to improve behavior. The main disadvantage of spanking is that it inadvertently justifies hitting others when we are upset, it sets a negative example for our children, and is totally unnecessary to help children learn appropriate behaviors.

Responses to the above parent questions 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 if you have questions you’d like our experts to respond to, contact:

Parenting 101

July 2012

1.   My husband and I have always been open and honest with our three kids about substance abuse, including alcohol and marijuana.  However, with all the talk of decriminalization and/or medical marijuana, it is getting more difficult to “convince” them that using could take a heavy toll on their lives.  What can we say to maintain our position with credibility and not sound like we’re stuck in the past?

This is such a great question for the times.  It truly is more difficult today to stand behind an argument about the dangers of marijuana when currently marijuana use is riding the borderline of legality.  Decriminalization and medical usage have clouded the waters in our society’s discussion of Marijuana far more than necessary. Neither consideration changes the dangers that Marijuana use poses in the slightest. It is the same substance if it is decriminalized or not (which is not to say decriminalization is not an important issue, see RAND’s white paper on what would happen if it were legalized). Tobacco cigarettes are not criminalized, but do we doubt at all that they are very dangerous and unhealthy? It is also the same substance, with the same risks, whether it has medical use or not. Cocaine is used medically. Oxycontin is used medically. Valium is used medically. Would anyone advocate that this means that these substances are safe for recreational use? We do innumerable things in the name of helping sick people medically, that we would never want to subject a healthy person to (surgery, radiation etc.). The content and handling of the Compassionate Use Act (not the “free for all getting high is o.k.” act) has presented some serious problems. The people of California wanted to make it o.k. for sick and suffering people to have access to a medicine they previously did not (despite the fact that there is still significant debate in the medical community whether Marijuana is a best practice medication). The law was not intended to allow free use, though the way it was implemented and the way some profiteering doctors have handled it have made it defacto legal for those over 18, at least for now. The facts and the research on the effects of Marijuana do not change with legislation. There are plenty of articles you can find if you simply ‘Google’ “The dangers of today’s marijuana.” An example of what you would find is as follows: “The potency of THC, the mind-altering chemical in marijuana, has more than doubled in the last twenty years creating a greater risk for impairment and a far higher risk of addiction.” So, we suggest you find a number of credible articles, the best ones have scientific research to back up their facts.      Have another of your “open and honest” discussions and share both your fears and facts.  Marijuana has many, and sometimes more, of the toxic chemicals found in tobacco that collect in the body with each use.  Point out how common abuse and addiction are in both the adult and secondary school populations, which greatly disrupts and destroys individuals lives and the lives of their family members who love them. Good for you for taking this issue seriously and arming yourself with information!

2. I’m a single mom with one son who is 13.  I work to support us and can’t be with him all day long.  A couple of times I’ve come home and would swear I smell cigarette smoke in the apartment.  When I ask him he denies it but I’m not sure I believe him.  At what point do I stop trusting him and breach his privacy?

The general rule about breaching privacy is that it is done whenever there is any suspicion that involves potential dangers for your child.  You are at that point. If you smell cigarette smoke it is because it is there. It is your responsibility as a parent to make sure that your house is free from dangerous chemicals and that your 13 year old son is not starting an addiction that is devastating. The privacy he is entitled to is limited. Smelling cigarette smoke more than once in your apartment is sufficient enough to search his room and belongings when he is not at home.  If you don’t find anything, wait until the next incident and repeat your efforts.  I would smell the clothes he puts into the dirty clothes bin, and/or ask him for a kiss when he returns home from being with his friends to determine if his breath smells of tobacco use.

Tobacco is an extremely addictive drug for anyone, but the younger one is when they start, the greater the chances of addiction. His brain is still developing and very malleable, including in critical parts related to addiction.

Many cities now have agencies that have prevention programs for young smokers.  If you can locate some support systems, you may be able to get information that will help to educate your son, and/or possible cessation programs if you determine that he has been smoking.

Responses to the above parent questions 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 if you have questions you’d like our experts to respond to, contact:

Parenting 101

June 2012

1.   My son just started driving and I want to create a contract that clearly defines our expectations as well as punishment for infractions.  What points should I be sure to include in the contract?

The contract should begin by stating that driving is a ‘privilege’ and not a right.  The privilege, for all drivers, is maintained by driving responsibly.  The consequences (not punishments) for not driving responsibly is loss of the privilege – plain and simple.

Include a list of all  expected responsibilities that are related to driving.  Examples are: drinking and driving or using other mind-altering substances (even when not driving – being absolutely clean and sober should be a non-negotiable part of the contract), obeying traffic rules, obeying curfew laws, etc.  Follow next with rules that are more family expectations related to driving – Examples are; maintaining a ‘B’ average to get an insurance discount (or whatever grade average you feel appropriate for your teen), chores completed, re-filling the gas tank, keeping the car clean after use (possibly even washing the car).  Remind your teen that until they are 18, parents have the legal right to revoke or suspend a driver’s license, and that you will do so if your rules are not respected.  Also, remind your son that if he doesn’t respect the rules of the DMV that the police will do the same,  (i.e. driving with friends in the car before the first year, etc).  How any traffic tickets, parking tickets and/or accidents will be handled should also be spelled out.

2.  We just found out that our 16yo daughter’s boyfriend (he’s just turned 18) has a prescription for medical marijuana.  Is there any way to make sure she doesn’t use it as well?  Can he get into trouble for sharing with her?  How do we monitor this?

You have quite a situation on your hands there. Monitoring your daughter for potential use should involve the following two elements:

1) Random drug testing. It needs to be truly random, so she does not know when it is coming. Marijuana lasts for a long time in the body and is one of the easiest drugs to catch on a test. It is strongly recommended that you get professional assistance in testing and in handling the results if they are positive. There are an abundance of tricks and methods to beat drug tests (just spend two minutes on Google checking out the plethora of information available and it will make your head spin). Unobserved drug tests are of little to no value, neither are drug tests she can study for ahead of time.

2) Close personal interaction when she returns home. Make a tradition where she needs to give you a hug or kiss on the cheek when she returns home. Take note of the condition of her overall bearing, her eyes and any odors. Also watch for attempts to mask evidence, such as use of perfume, incense, breath mints etc. to mask odors and frequent use of eye drops to mask red or glassy eyes.

As a bottom line, yes it is illegal for him to share it with her (he could lose his prescription privileges if he shares with anyone), however, actually proving that he did, even if she tests positive, is quite another issue. You would do well to adopt a bottom line that if she uses Marijuana at all she will no longer be allowed to associate with people who have known access to it (and you might want to ask yourself just how much of your blessing this relationship has). There also needs to be a bottom line drawn that she cannot be a passenger in a vehicle driven by this young man. Marijuana, as previously noted, lasts in the system for a long time and has been shown to seriously impair the ability to drive. A firm and clear setting of at least these boundaries should be done with your daughter AND the young man in question. They may be done with your daughter separately and beforehand, but the young man needs to hear them also. Your daughter may not be a big fan of the idea, but if a now legally adult young man is going to have a serious relationship with your daughter (who is a minor) he needs to be willing to discuss serious issues related to that relationship with you face to face.

This is the exact type of situation where we need to recognize that we cannot control any of our children’s actions (i.e. – whom they choose for friends or if they choose to partake in alcohol or other drugs) – BUT WE DO CONTROL THE CONSEQUENCES FOR NOT MAKING RESPONSIBLE DECISIONS.

Responses to the above parent questions 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 if you have questions you’d like our experts to respond to, contact:

Parenting 101

April 2012

1. Recently my husband’s work hours were cut and we’re struggling financially, now his drinking has increased quite a bit and he’s always angry – at first he just was angry with me but now he’s begun to take it out on our children as well, yelling at them for no reason, or dishing out very harsh punishment for small issues.  I’ve tried talking to him about it, but he says he’s fine and doesn’t need help.  I don’t want to turn into a nag, but I don’t know what to do.  Thank you for your help.

You are right on target with not wanting to “nag.”   Some of the most challenging aspects of being in a marriage relationship is stepping up when you see a possible ‘train wreck’ ahead.  What is happening in your family now seems to be one of those times.  It will not be easy, but your husband needs you now more than ever to be assertive (not aggressive), and insist that the two of you talk about your situation. There are three issues that you need to attend to and that you can do something about. First:  empower yourself in preparation for dealing with what is unlikely to be a quick or easy process. Get educated on alcoholism and alcohol abuse and misuse.  Public education is offered by most local treatment centers; there are wonderful resources online and print material is also available. Get support so that you are not alone. Alanon is a wonderful resource for those affected by family members’  drinking and meetings are plentiful in the South Bay. Local treatment centers and churches may also offer support groups. Second: make sure your children are protected, both physically and emotionally. What you describe is harmful to children. Decide where your lines are regarding the treatment of your children and clearly communicate these to your husband (preferably when he is not drinking). If these lines are continually crossed,  you may need to call in help, whether that be the Department of Children and Family Services or the Police. You cannot allow yourself or your children to be victims of ongoing abuse of any nature. Third:  lovingly encourage your husband to get help, while making that as easy as possible. Research what treatment options are open for him and contact local interventionists to explore using that method. Shaming him, agitated emotional appeal, meeting anger with anger, and judging and/or manipulating have all proven highly ineffective in getting alcoholics or problem drinkers to seek help. Communicate as clearly and calmly as you can your concerns for him, yourself,  and your children. Let him know you love him and want him healthy and happy. This approach gives you the best chance to positively impact his choice, but there are, unfortunately, no guarantees.   You may need to make very hard decisions to ensure your own and your children’s welfare and that is where the support you have built will become critical.

2.  How can I tell if my 14yo son is depressed or just moody like other teens?  Some days he’s fine – funny & like his old self – then others he barely speaks to anyone, shrugs off my concern, and stays in his room with his ear phones in.  Could his mood swings be related to drugs?  How do I tell the difference?

To answer your question directly: is your son depressed- possibly!  Is he just a moody teenager- most likely! Are his mood swings related to drugs – maybe! The true key is communication.  Share this article with him, tell him you love him and worry about him.  Then sit back and listen.  You will have to wait for it, because he most likely won’t just begin talking. Be patient, non-judgmental, and non-critical with whatever he says.  Just listen and learn.  If it is in part, or whole,  substance driven, there will likely be other signs such as unusual odors, abnormal eye appearance, friends with known substance involvement, drug related material ( High Times Magazine, visits to drug related sites online, t-shirts with drug related slogans etc.), increased secrecy, attempts to keep physical distance, loss of interest in activities he’s always enjoyed,  or others.  Consider implementing random drug screening (which can be done at a very reasonable cost) both as a confirmation  and as a preventative measure (it’s easier for a teen to say “no” if they know they will be caught, plus it is perfectly o.k. for him to use you as his “over protective” parent  if offered drugs).  If you see multiple signs that drug use is involved, contact one of the local treatment centers specializing in adolescents and obtain a professional assessment, which is often available at very reasonable to no cost.

Responses to the above parent questions 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 if you have questions you’d like our experts to respond to, contact:

Parenting 101

February 2012

1. My son will be going into middle school in the fall and I’m concerned about alcohol and/or drugs. In the South Bay, what are kids using most often and what are the symptoms I should look for?

Alcohol and Marijuana are by far the most prevalent drugs of abuse for minors in the South Bay, but many other substances are around, as well, ranging from cocaine, mushrooms and heroin to “spice” and “bath salts.” With all substances of abuse be on the lookout for the following:

  • 1. Unusual odors on your child’s person or clothing or in an area they have recently been.
  • 2. Increased secrecy or attempts to keep you at a physical distance.
  • 3. Significant lethargy, drowsiness or excessive energy.
  • 4. Blood shot eyes or extremely small or large pupils.
  • 5. Narrowing of interests and social circle.
  • 6. Poor performance at school.

Space prohibits an exhaustive listing of all symptoms, but always remember an involved parent who firmly sets clear boundaries and has ongoing dialogue with their child regarding substance use, is by far the best preventative force around.

2. My 13yo daughter has been best friends with the same girl since 2nd grade, but now her friend is more interested in boys and make-up than school or soccer. My daughter isn’t quite there yet and seems to feel depressed and abandoned by her friend. How can I help her through this?

Unfortunately, your daughter is experiencing one of the ‘changes of life’ that is very normal and natural for this age. One of the natural parts of life is that friends change, their interest change, their focus’ change, which leaves us with the choice of changing along with them or finding different friends that more closely match our likes and dislikes. It is very likely, however, that not ‘all’ of her ‘old’ friends have deviated from your daughter’s interests. She is certainly not the only girl her age who is not ready for ‘young adult’ interests. As her mom, there is much you can do to help. Sit down with your daughter and using her interests, plan an event, celebration, or a project (i.e., a beach party, an outing to roller coasters, collect clothes for the homeless, plant trees in the park, pick up trash on the beach, collect toys for hospital children, etc.). Then help her carry out this event or project. Along the way, help seek out and collect other peers of hers that are interested in joining the cause or participating in the celebration.
You may also help find an organization, sports team, or social club through your church, school, or community recreation that your daughter is interested in and can join. There is great variety of places to get involved in that make life seem more important, especially when you are working as part of a team. Kids who just hang out and talk about doing things because it looks grown-up often miss out on great opportunities.

Responses to the above parent questions 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 if you have questions you’d like our experts to respond to, contact:

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