Category Archives: Marijuana Abuse

Parenting 101

December 2011

1. We found marijuana in our 16yo son’s bedroom (this is the 2nd time) – and we’ve grounded him and taken away all his privileges. However, while I don’t want him to feel left out of holiday activities, at the same time I’m so mad at him I can hardly talk to him. How can I manage this better?

Your son’s having brought Marijuana into your house and kept it there a second time after being caught previously is a very strong statement about the intensity of his relationship with that drug and the attendant loss of respect for family values and boundaries that attends drug problems. Some parents feel that Marijuana use is “just part of adolescence,” while others find it a wakeup call that your son needs help/guidance to deal with life without the use of an hallucinogen. Grounding and loss of privileges is appropriate, however, it is not in and of itself a solution to the problem.
It is definitely time to seek help for his problem (continued use despite negative consequences is a clear indicator that he has a drug problem). We urge you to seek an assessment at a chemical dependency program specializing in adolescents as quickly as possible. Make sure that the program has a strong family component. You’re right on target to be considering your anger. Although completely understandable, your anger will not help your son recover from a drug problem. A good family program can help teach you how to support recovery and hold boundaries against drug use effectively. We would not banish your son from family holiday activities, but holiday activities with friends are not necessary given the poor decision making process he has exhibited.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore the issue, or feel you can contain it by a ‘”slap on the hand.” This approach rarely properly addresses the issue. Even if you are a parent who believes Marijuana is harmless, remember this is a child who doesn’t have the maturity to understand the concept of moderation or ‘responsible’ use of anything.

2. We found out that our 15yo daughter’s best friend is posting provocative pictures of herself on Facebook. Our daughter says she hasn’t done this and we’ve checked her page and found nothing. Should we tell her friends parents or mind our own business? We’ve known this girl for several years and are concerned about her reputation as well as her influence on our daughter, (who is freaking out at the thought that we will contact her friend’s parents).

As parents we have a responsibility to protect our own children. But what about other people’s children? While it is totally your option of whether to tell the other parents or not, we suggest you use the guideline of the reverse. If another parent comes to know about something that might be a danger to your daughter (provocative pictures on the Internet, drug and alcohol use, riding bikes in traffic without helmets, etc) would you want to be informed? If the answer is yes, then it makes sense that you help out another parent and provide them with the information you have. Do not add any judgment or criticism, not even your opinion, just the facts as you know them. Then leave it up to the other parent to follow through. Their reaction or how they handle it may vary widely and unpredictably, know that you are not in charge of that, only of giving them the information they need to have. Also, be aware that it is very common for teens to keep at least two facebook pages, one that they “friend” their parents on (so their parents will let them use facebook ) and another on which they really interact with their friends. Too many young people believe that their postings on any social media site is a private event and is restricted to only their friends. They are unable to comprehend that ‘anything and everything’ sent via any social media venue is available to the world. Because you have spent your life protecting your children (as you should) they also are not able to comprehend that human behavior can be very ugly. We know that every social media contains “predators,” but teens feel invulnerable to anyone outside their circle of friends. Checking browser history to see what facebook pages have been visited is extremely important. Indeed, your daughter will be upset if you contact her friend’s parents. However, this will send a very clear message to your daughter that there are some behaviors that are never acceptable and require intervention, which hopefully discourages her from ever considering doing the same in the future. This is a textbook example of the choice that every parent of a teen has to make over and over again: Am I my teen’s parent or friend? Those roles are mutually exclusive. Please be her parent, at 15 she desperately needs that. Being a good parent of a teen means they will often not like your decisions, love her enough to make the right one anyway.

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

November 2011

1. My 6th grade daughter wants to “go out” with a boy in her school, but I think she’s too young. However, I don’t want her to feel she has to sneak around. I’m just not sure how to handle this.

While there are always exceptions, most 6th graders do not go out on ‘exclusive’ dates. For one, they do not have their own transportation, or the maturity to know what behavior is acceptable. Most boys and girls of that age meet at the mall, movies or beach with a group of friends. Typically, she would go with her friends, and he with his. The two groups meet and the ‘couple’ interact together while all the others watch and usually make non-serious conversations. However, it is not appropriate to leave them on their own.

By 8th grade there are a few who are taken by their parents or older sibling to the movies or a concert (some public place). They are usually dropped off and picked up when the venue is over. But at your daughter’s age, tell her you would be happy to have the boy over to your house, where they could spend time, but not alone or behind closed doors. They can have the living room to themselves while you are nearby and can walk in at any time. They can be invited along to sports events or family outings. Provide your daughter with as many options as possible, but tell her the rules are that they are not permitted to be alone or behind closed doors for everyone’s’ best interest. The idea is that as part of any child’s natural development, they need to learn appropriate behavior with the opposite sex. The concept of giving children freedoms that are not appropriate to their age simply so they will not “rebel” or “sneak” gives away parental power and assumes the worst of a child’s character. Set appropriate boundaries, know it is your right to do so and expect your child to live up to them (children often do live up to expectations).

2. Sometimes my 14yo son doesn’t seem to have any control over his actions or emotions. He makes poor decisions and I’m not sure I get through to him when we talk about long-term consequences. I’m worried that this isn’t just a phase, that it’s possibly a character flaw that could spell real problems for him down the road. Any advice/suggestions will be welcome. Thank you.

Brain studies for pre-teen and teens show clearly that the prefrontal cortex, which controls all impulsive behaviors, is not nearly fully developed. It is not unusual for that part of the brain to not reach full maturity until the early twenties. In individuals with attention deficit disorder, the prefrontal cortex is especially underdeveloped. This is a big contributor to what makes disciplining teens so difficult. Your best bet is to have consistent and firm consequences for poor decisions. Make sure that you explain that everyone makes mistakes and the consequences are there as a reminder to make good choices. Use the example of a parking meter. If you choose to ignore the law and not pay for parking your car, you will get a reminder ticket as a consequence. Getting a parking ticket has nothing to do with what kind of person you are, they are simply a way of reminding people to do what they are supposed to do.

The amount of a parent’s “parking ticket” should not be too little, nor too great, otherwise, chances are it will be ignored or rebelled against.

While more information about what your son’s lack of control and poor decisions would be needed to give you more specific advice, the fact that they have caused you concern is reason enough to reach out for some help. We would suggest a short consultation with a licensed therapist, who specializes in adolescents, to determine if there are further needs in addressing your son’s behavior.

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:

Q&A with Hazelden’s Dr. Joseph Lee: Adolescent Abuse of Synthetic Drugs

Join Together: What trends are you seeing in adolescent abuse of synthetic drugs? Which designer drugs are becoming most widely used?

Dr. Lee: Most often, Hazelden doesn’t see young people who are addicted primarily to synthetic drugs, but we do see a lot of experimentation. Of synthetic drugs, marijuana seems to be the most popular agent, with bath salts and hallucinogens used less frequently.

The majority of these young people who come in for residential care at Hazelden are admitted due to use of another substance, but many have tried synthetic drugs at some point. There are many cases, however, where synthetics became the primary drug of choice.

Join Together: Why is the increasing use of synthetic drugs so worrisome?

Dr. Lee: These drugs are particularly dangerous because amateur laboratories manufacture them and no one knows enough about the chemicals used to make these substances. There are a lot of chemicals marketed as synthetic cannabis that actually have different components. No one would really think about smoking a bath salt or potpourri on its own. The contaminants in these chemicals alone should raise concern. Each time someone uses a synthetic chemical, they have no way of knowing what they are putting into their body.

Reports from emergency room admissions and overdoses indicate that many kids are experiencing very serious negative reactions to synthetic substances, including heart problems, psychosis and agitation, and in rare cases, death. Personally, I have seen many kids develop psychotic symptoms that do not improve for months. Also, synthetic drugs are often manufactured to escape detection from standard urine drug screens.

Join Together: How are teens getting access to these drugs?

Dr. Lee: In the past, kids would buy these drugs from the same head shops where they get paraphernalia for marijuana and tobacco. Now, increasingly kids are going online to buy drugs to avoid getting caught.

It is tough to monitor the Internet for illegal drug sales because state and federal laws are not all-encompassing. If the state or federal government bans one substance, manufacturers can make a small change to the chemical so the new product is no longer illegal. This challenge mirrors the difficulty of regulating the sale of other drugs online.

Join Together: Which types of teens are most likely to experiment with synthetic drugs and why?

Dr. Lee: Anyone can experiment with synthetic drugs. However, there are at least three demographics that parents should be particularly aware of:

  • Young people are intrigued by synthetic drugs because they are experimental by nature at this age. Many don’t intend to get addicted, but decide to use drugs simply because their “friends are doing it, too.” There was a case in Blaine, Minnesota where kids ordered an ingestible, synthetic hallucinogen called “2 C-E” online and as a result of using it, one 19-year-old died and 10 more young people were hospitalized. This group may not have been addicted to drugs, but were “just” experimenting.
  • Young people who are already in trouble with the law and are being monitored use synthetic drugs because they are often undetectable by standard screenings.
  • Young people who seek peer-approval, perhaps a little more than what would be considered normal, are attracted to the idea that they can know more about synthetic drugs than others. This group receives a certain sense of authority and credibility among their network by being the person who is either well-connected or has an arcane knowledge of obscure drugs. They will often try chemicals that others might not try in order to demonstrate their mastery.

Overall, we are making a dangerous mistake by waiting for kids to show the signs of addiction before we educate children about synthetic substances. These drugs can have a severe, detrimental impact right away. Many kids have problems with synthetic drugs who are not necessarily addicted to anything else. Addiction is not a prerequisite for having a problem with synthetic substances.

Join Together: Are these drugs being used alone or together with other drugs? Are they a “gateway” to other types of substance abuse?

Dr. Lee: It is normal, though not healthy, for kids to experiment with substances. That is one of the differences between young people and adults with drug abuse problems. However, this behavior is dangerous because they might find that one drug is more rewarding than another. It’s just like ice cream: once they try and like chocolate ice cream, they wonder what strawberry ice cream tastes like. That’s really their approach.

Often times, the fact that kids mix chemicals together with alcohol, cigarettes or other substances multiplies the risk of having a bad reaction. We see many examples of overdoses with alcohol and pain medication, but it can also occur with other substances. Kids are often falsely reassured by the amount of potentially bad information they get from online and other resources.

The so-called “gateway hypothesis” is controversial. Researchers cannot prove that the use of one drug does something in the brain that encourages the use of other drugs. However, we do know that when you track young people who use alcohol, marijuana, and other substances before the age of 15, they are more likely to experiment with and use other substances later on. We also know that the earlier a child abuses drugs, the more likely they are to develop an addiction later in life.

Many of the kids who use synthetic substances also seem to have behavior problems or other mental health issues at a young age, so it is important for physicians to screen for those kids who display risk factors for addiction. But, we also see very high-functioning kids who succumb to addiction due to experimentation, so every parent and physician must be cautious.

Join Together: Are there any tactics you think would be effective in reducing the abuse of synthetic drugs?

Dr. Lee: Strong messaging about the dangers of synthetic drugs (and other drug and alcohol abuse) is very important for family members to use with their children at a young age. It is also equally essential that family members act in an open-minded and tolerant way with their children, so they feel comfortable coming to older family members with questions or problems.

It is true that parents who don’t have strong messages about not using drugs often have kids who use more. Parents who are firm with expectations and limits, but who are also available emotionally have the most success. This is called authoritative parenting.

Parents also wait too long to screen their kids for drug use, and specifically synthetic drug use. They need to have regular screenings with their pediatrician and other health professionals, beginning at an early age.

Parents should take a close look at their family history. If they have a predisposition to substance abuse, they need to pay attention for their children. Additionally, if they have an older child who uses substances, that increases the risk that the younger child will use drugs, as well.

There are many other things that parents can do to help their child and plenty of comprehensive resources for them to access in their community and online.

Joseph Lee, MD works at Hazelden’s Center for Youth and Families as a child and adolescent psychiatrist. Drawing upon his expertise in medicine, individual and family therapy, Twelve Step models, and the evaluation and treatment of adolescents, Dr. Lee works with teenagers and young adults from ages 14 to 25 who are struggling with addictions to drugs and alcohol. Please see more information on Hazelden’s website:


Parenting 101

August 2011

1.  We have two sons – 17 & 12 – the older is constantly ranting about his belief that drugs (especially marijuana) should be legalized.  He goes on and on about how using drugs doesn’t hurt anyone and how smoking weed is better for you than drinking, etc., etc.  I’m worried his attitude will spill over to our younger son.  Any advice on how to handle & dispel my older son’s beliefs will be much appreciated.

It would be rare for someone who did not indulge in Marijuana (or other drug) use to be so passionate about it being legalized or to make patently ridiculous statements like “using drugs doesn’t hurt anyone.”   While handling and attempting to dispel his beliefs is important, a far more important issue is very likely to be his substance use, and if it is active, any movement in his belief system is unlikely.  If you see any signs or symptoms of active drug use, please address those with an addiction professional ASAP.

The arguments about  the use of drugs in our society are extensive and complex. Unfortunately, there is no iron clad way to dispel your older son’s beliefs.  People using Marijuana are less prone to violent acts than drinkers of alcohol, but marijuana has far more profound negative effects on memory and motivation…and the back and forth could go on nearly endlessly.  We encourage you to look into the research and clinical evidence available on Marijuana, most easily available on the internet.  Some facts about marijuana use include:  it has been found that marijuana smoke contains  50 -70 percent more carcinogens than tobacco smoke!  Since users inhale the unfiltered smoke deeply and hold for a longer period of time, the lung tissue is irritated resulting in coughing, phlegm and increased risk of emphysema.  THC also has a negative impact on the immune system,  resulting in more frequent bouts with bacterial infections and respiratory illnesses. Since marijuana reduces memory retention and attention span, learning is compromised, resulting in decreases of accomplishment in the classroom or workplace. Chronic marijuana smokers  have a higher frequency of divorce and disruptive family life.

Begin a conversation with your older son on the grounds of looking at how we form our opinions and the importance of bias in both the presentation and interpretation of information.  Start with a genuine curiosity about how he has formed his beliefs about Marijuana and where he has gotten his information from.  If he is using Marijuana, he is unlikely to have either the ability or the inclination for a serious discussion about beliefs, bias and life – which leaves you with this standard parental response as your best option:  “while I can respect your opinions about marijuana or other drugs, the rules in our house will always be  that any illegal alcohol or other drug use is strictly prohibited, and,  any talk that promotes or encourages substance use is not allowed in the house.”  The same rules apply for the 12 year old.

If your older son is using, that will have a far more profound impact on your younger son than his verbally expressed beliefs. Older siblings are a tremendously powerful influence and most especially at the ages your sons currently are.  A concern that your question also raises is whether you are more focused on protecting your younger son and have almost given up on your older son.  A good family counselor with a strong knowledge and experience base in substance abuse could be an invaluable asset in addressing your situation.

2.  I suspect my 15 year old daughter is using marijuana – how can I tell?  What should I do?

You are fortunate in that Marijuana is one of the substances that  is easiest to find on a urine drug screen and can be found for many days after last use.  We strongly recommend testing.  Most often a parent’s suspicions do not arise until sometime after use has actually started. It is important that you have the test done by an entity with expertise in the drug testing process, like a local drug and alcohol treatment center,  rather than through a family physician.  A treatment center can help you make sure the test is valid, interpret the results,  and help guide you to appropriate help if the test is positive. It is important that you ask for a quantitative test, as if it is positive you will want to be able to look for increasing or decreasing levels of THC on future tests. There are many ways to cheat on drug tests and this information is readily available to even novice users. Your daughter needs to be unaware of the test until it happens. This is one of the few tests you do not want her studying for.  Be prepared for resistance on her part, which, if she is actively using, may be quite fierce. Avoid anger and judgment and make this an issue of protecting her health and safety.  Additionally, Whether she is using or not, you are sending a clear message that you are paying attention to her actions and you have no tolerance for any illegal use of alcohol or other drugs.  If your child does refuse, take it as a greater sign that she likely is using.  If she tries to guilt you into not giving the test by saying you need to just trust her, a good response would be:   “a clean test will provide me with the knowledge to trust you more!”

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

June 2011

1.   Our 16yr old daughter has started dating an 18yr old “boy” who we hear has been known to drink and use drugs. Although our daughter exhibits no symptoms or behaviors suggesting she’s using too, we are anxious and worried about how to handle this situation. What should we do?

You have good reason to be concerned. Teens who socialize with others who drink and use are far more likely to do so themselves, but the danger does not stop there. If this boy is drinking and using, she’s at much greater risk for being involved in an automobile crash, being a victim of dating violence and/or rape, or facing legal consequences secondary to being around illicit substances or intoxicated minors. The first step should be to sit down and have an “adult” conversation with your daughter. Do your best to use only statements that start with ‘I’ and avoid saying ‘you’ – this will prevent you from making any accusations, either intentionally or unintentionally. If your daughter does not feel attacked, judged or criticized, she will be much more likely to listen to what you have to say. Carefully share your concerns about the situation, including the legal ramifications for him, if anything should happen to her.

Use statements such as: ‘I understand that older boys are more attractive because they’re more mature and experienced, however, I also understand that he is in a different place in life, that he is considered an ‘adult’ legally, and will want to seek out adult activities and interests which are not appropriate for someone who is 16”; and other statements like, “ I cannot know for sure, but the word from others is that he is not making very good decisions and chooses inappropriate activities.  It would devastate me to learn that he may try to involve you in these activities.”

Then allow her to talk and carefully listen to see if she seems fully aware of the issues that are involved with dating an older person.  Based on what you daughter tells you, you can decide whether to restrict this relationship.  It’s obvious that any unsupervised time they spend together is potentially dangerous.  While it’s not necessarily true that she is joining in his activities, it is true that he is not to be trusted.

Discussions of the same nature with this young man (and his family) are also in order. If he denies drug use, ask him to take a urine drug screen (most effective if done without prior notice). Although these measures are certainly not the most comfortable to take, you owe it to your daughter to do all in your power to protect her. She is still a child and it’s your responsibility to provide that protection.

2. The other day as I was putting away my 14yo son’s laundry, I discovered plastic baggies in his drawer – one contained several different kinds of pills and the other had what I assume to be marijuana. I haven’t said anything to him yet – I’m terrified of his response. His behavior has been somewhat rebellious lately but nothing I would consider uncharacteristic for a 14 year old boy. I don’t know how to handle this. Help!

98% of the time in this type of situation the young person is definitely involved in using illegal substances and has been for some time but has successfully deceived his parents.  What allows this behavior to not only continue but to also develop, is the fact that most parents have this same reaction – they are terrified and do not know how to proceed without fear of losing their loving relationship with their child.  His response is likely to be extreme, substance abusing or addicted children are volatile far in excess of the already significant amount 14 year olds are. Those who begin using drugs by age fourteen have a strong chance of developing an addiction, far greater than if that use does not start until later years. His current use is doing serious damage to the development of his brain, which is in a critical stage at this period of his life.

We strongly suggest you seek professional help.  Both parents should not waste any time in taking this child to an adolescent drug treatment center, where each person will be interviewed and the teen will be drug tested (so don’t tell your son ahead of time).  He will likely not understand or grasp any of this and be highly resistant, but remember he is a child and he needs you to be a parent, which means often being unpopular with your child. If his reaction is extreme, look at it and ask yourself this: Is this a child in control and healthy, or is this a child in desperate need of help? The center will provide assessment, evaluation and suggestions.  This process is free at many centers in the area and works best because it is far more objective in the evaluation and suggestions.  It will avoid arguments about what is true and not true because chances are great that your child will deny any ‘accusation’ you make.  It is critical to know that the longer parents wait the more difficult it will be to remediate the situation.  It will not be a pleasant experience for you, but it is your duty to deal with this and it will be far less unpleasant than attending his funeral or sentencing. Please confiscate the drugs and call your local treatment center immediately for a referral and/or assessment!

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:

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:

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.”


National Study Confirms Teen Drug Use Trending in Wrong Direction

Following a decade of steady declines, a new national study released today indicates that teen drug and alcohol use is headed in the wrong direction, with marked increases in teen use of marijuana and Ecstasy over the past three years. The 22nd annual Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) affirms a disturbing trend that has emerged among American teens since 2008 and highlights that as underage drinking becomes more normalized among adolescents, parents feel unable to respond to the negative shifts in teen drug and alcohol use. The study was released by The Partnership at and MetLife Foundation.

According to the three-year trend confirmed in this year’s 2010 PATS data, there was a significant 67 percent increase in the number of teens who reported using Ecstasy in the past year (from 6 percent in 2008 to 10 percent in 2010). Similarly, past-year marijuana use among teens increased by a disturbing 22 percent (from 32 percent in 2008 to 39 percent in 2010).

“You’re seeing this weakness in this generation of teens’ attitudes around drug and alcohol use,” Steve Pasierb, president of the partnership, told the Associated Press. “It’s not like this generation of kids thinks they’re more bulletproof than others, but they really don’t see any harm in that heavy drinking.”

The new data underscore alarming patterns in early adolescent alcohol use and found that teens view drinking alcohol – even heavy drinking – as less risky than using other substances.

• Of those teens who reported alcohol use, a majority (62 percent) said they had their first full alcoholic drink by age 15, not including sipping or tasting alcohol.

• Of those teens who reported alcohol use, one in four (25 percent), said they drank a full alcoholic drink for the first time by age 12 or younger.

• Among teens who reported drinking alcohol, the average age of first alcohol use was 14


Parenting 101

March 2011

1. My 16yo son is close to getting his driver’s license. We can’t afford to buy him a car (like many of his friends) so I need help with appropriate boundaries for his use of the family car. He’s basically a good kid, but does bend the rules now & then. Thank you.

When it comes to your teen’s use of the family car, it is best to make a clear agreement (in writing might be a good idea) on when it can be used. This would usually involve the times it is not needed to get you to work or run errands. But more importantly, an agreement must include sharing of the responsibility for the use of the car. This includes maintenance of the car, such as washing the car, keeping it filled with gas, and helping to take it in for service. Perhaps your son can help with household errands like going to the store or picking up dry cleaning. This will be critical training for the day when he does have his own car.

Make sure to spell out consequences should he break the law (i.e. speeding, driving friends when not legally allowed to) or for failure to return home on time etc. Avoid situations where he is scheduled to come home after you are asleep, for a kid who does bend the rules occasionally, this is a prime set up to do so.

It must be made clear that the use of the automobile is strictly a privilege that must be earned, and not a right. Explain that each and every infraction will result in a loss of this and/or other privileges. Because you have complete control over the use of your car, you have a great deal of leverage in teaching your child to earn their privileges like all adults.

Finally, parents should never feel badly if they’re not able to buy their child a car, even if they believe all of their friends parents are buying cars for their children. There are far more parents who can’t afford to buy their children cars than those that can. The important thing to remember is that this has never been a factor of good parenting. Good parenting involves teaching your children to appreciate what they have and to share in responsibility.

2. We have a 4 year old daughter who is quite precocious. Unfortunately, we have spoiled her rotten. Now she’s throwing tantrums and misbehaving to the point of embarrassment. How do we fix this?

You begin by rethinking your philosophy on raising children. It is not ‘spoiling’ that is the problem with your child, it is what we call ‘enabling’. Spoiling is the act of providing them with more than they need, enabling them is the act of not holding them accountable for their behavior and actions. We hold young children accountable in the same way we hold adults accountable, by having them earn their privileges. The act of holding someone accountable involves consequences and not punishment. While there can be a fine line between punishment and consequences, the main difference is that individuals are able to avoid consequences by making the right choices.

For example, your young child can avoid having her favorite toy being put in time out for a day if she picks up her toys before dinner time. She can watch her favorite TV program if her chores are completed or she has shown good behavior all day. She can wear her favorite outfit if she is ready for school on time. The key to good parenting is the effective and proper use of appropriate consequences. The only purpose of consequences is to get your attention, not to cause suffering. Like parking tickets – they don’t hurt you or punish you, they are a fine that you wish you did not have to pay, but you can only blame yourself for having to pay it. Remember, you do not control your child, or anyone else, however, you do control each and every privilege your child earns – and earn they must or you risk raising a child who believes the world owes them everything.

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:

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