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The Persistence of Trauma, Problems in Adulthood

Time conceals rather heals wounds, and traumatic experiences convert to disease later in life.  Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) cause diseases that carry into adulthood, as well as numerous psychological issues and addiction.  (Read about the mind-body connection, part 1 and mind-based healing solutions, part 2)

A long-term study from Denmark, explored a number psychological factors that may or may not have adverse outcomes on the children.

The Danish study determined that parental factors most likely to create either violent or suicidal tendencies in adulthood are 1) parents who used marijuana; 2) having parents who are sociopaths or 3) having parents who attempt suicide.   In other words, marijuana abuse is far more serious in predicting adverse behavioral outcomes than other parental mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder and alcoholism.

Salvador Dali , The Persistence of Memory, 1931: Time goes on, but the conscious mind may not know how memories hidden in our body and brain persist. The effects of early trauma are carried into adulthood. Photo: MoMA, New York

What is Known about ACEs?

Because the research is so extensive, we are coming to understand some of the precise mechanisms by which biography turns into biology.  Heart disease, diabetes, all forms of auto-immune disease (a growing problem), addiction and obesity are connected to high ACE scores.   While choices such as smoking, maintaining a good or bad diet and exercise are within a person’s control, ACEs are not.

Today there are more than 1500 studies about how ACEs affect the mental and physical health.  The exploration into ACEs began with an accidental discovery by Dr. Vincent Feletti of Kaiser Permanente in San Diego.  His obese patients who had high rates of cancer and heart disease also had high rates of childhood trauma.  Dr. Feretti teamed up with Dr. Robert Anda of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) whose specialty was the link between heart disease and depression.

Drs. Anda and Feretti conducted a huge study on childhood trauma and disease between 1995 and 1997.  The information they discovered can be revolutionary in terms of treatments linking mental and physical health.   They found that 2/3 of those who suffer chronic disease had traumatic childhoods. In other words, genetics is not the only predictor of susceptibility to disease; experiences also play a crucial role.

There’s Also Substance Abuse

Victims of trauma will often use marijuana, alcohol and other drugs to create a numbing effect, and to allow disassociation.   Marijuana and heroin have the greatest numbing effect, writes Janina Fisher, PhD., in a paper on Traumatic Abuse and Addiction. 

When the numbing is too much and the victims need to feel energized and alive again, stimulants such as cocaine and opiates can be used.  Other chronic marijuana users become anxious and get prescriptions for Xanax to cope with anxiety. The need to use multiple drugs becomes a cycle, and the addicts of today tend to develop multiple addictions.

This fragile coping mechanism often blows up when drugs users must deal with another person and raise children. Raising children and needing to care for another person will expose the inability of drug-abusing parents to maintain an equilibrium.   There are additional risks as well.

Multigenerational Drug Abuse

Yasmin Hurd of New York University spoke about neuroepigenetics and addiction vulnerability at the recent Neuroscience conference on November 16.  She believes marijuana is much more addictive than most people acknowledge. Her research demonstrates that both adolescent marijuana use, as well as exposure to THC in utero, makes epigenetic changes to the brain, priming it for greater susceptibility for later addiction to opiate drugs.

Hurd’s study explains one way marijuana use primes the next generation for addiction to their children.  Another way is when children of drug users carry the legacy of abuse by neglecting or abusing their children. Those who grew up in homes where drug use is normalized end up using and abusing, too.

Another problem is that medical marijuana practitioners are encouraging pregnant women to smoke pot for morning sickness and for breastfeeding.  Dr. Steven Simerville explains the reasons why we should be concerned about the mental development of children whose mothers did not protect them from THC during crucial stages of life.

Today, it’s not ‘just’ marijuana.  The marijuana of today is at least five times stronger than it was in the 1970s.   (Read Part 4 to understand more about how we are creating new generations of traumatized children.)

Our Growing Problem of Traumatized Children

Photos of passed out parents with toddlers have surfaced everywhere — the images of our addiction epidemic.  (Above photo is from the East Liverpool, Ohio, Police Department.) Though it’s often heroin, fentanyl or opiates that kill, most of the young people dying today began their illicit drug use with pot.  (Read Part 1,   Part 2 and Part 3. )  We have created a new generation of traumatized children.

“All of the parents I know who use marijuana are terrible parents,” a  fan of poppot.org’s, who is in her 20s, wrote to us recently. Marijuana is implicated, too, because it also causes deaths in a different way.  We’ve tracked 80 child deaths related to caregivers’ marijuana use since November, 2012.

When those who were traumatized children put their own children in abusive situations, it’s easy to understand their failings.  Selena Hitt’s boyfriend accidentally shot her baby, after both of them had smoked pot. Selena had been raised in foster care.  Her mother died when she was very young, and most of the time her father was not available to care for her.

However, there’s a group of non-traumatized adults abusing their children because the US government has allowed  the normalization of marijuana.  Because marijuana users can lose interest and are susceptible to psychosis, it’s particularly important not to use pot if you have children.

Up to eighty percent of child abuse and neglect involves substance abuse, a fact that violence prevention groups ignore or deny.*  The denial is helpful to the strategy of making drug use socially acceptable. NORML and Marijuana Policy Project encourage marijuana use, while Drug Policy Alliance wishes to legalize all drugs and thus normalize drug use.

Policy More than other Factors Creates Problem Drug Use

The same groups that promote legalization suggest that harm reduction strategies work.  Policy based on harm reduction promotes “responsible use” of drugs, and promotes a lie.  Recently, a five-year-old drowned, because her babysitter used pot at 8:30 a.m. and stopped watching her.

One of our Parents Opposed to Pot members in Colorado has a 13-year-old son who suffers from PTSD.   His older brother threatened and terrified him while in a marijuana-induced psychosis.   (The older son, now 17, is in recovery, while the younger son is being treated with EMDR for PTSD.)

States that decide to legalize pot must realize that their decision profound effects on the friends and families of marijuana users.  Our blog on suicides tells of teens and young adults who lived mainly in environments that normalized marijuana use.  For the most part, they did not use marijuana because of trauma, although one was a veteran.

Many parents of these suffering children use drugs only because it’s social and considered harmless. Michael Goldsby, addictions instructor at College of the Redwoods said, “Risk factors for drug problems include availability of drugs, positive peer attitudes towards drug use [and] community norms that accept drug misuse. Drug and alcohol use is accepted and even encouraged in our community”  Goldsby teaches college in the Emerald Triangle region.

Drug-Related Deaths far Outnumber Deaths by Cars or Guns

The genetic and environmental factors that influence drug use are compounded by a society that normalizes drug use.  The Center for Disease Control recently released statistics about accidental deaths:  52,404 drug-related deaths, up 11%.

37,757 died in car crashes, an increase of 12%.

36,252  gun deaths, including homicides and suicides

As we try to cope with a growing number of children affected by ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences), the United States is embarking on a program to legalize all drugs. Little children are losing their parents at an alarming rate, adding to the trauma and ACE scores of the future.

Instead of protecting the people, politicians are allowing marijuana lobbyists to dictate policy.  (Billionaires, marijuana companies and pro-legalization groups donated more than $22 million to legalize marijuana in California.)   Professionals need to counter the media bias and bias in polls which favors drug legalization.

Taking away children from drug-using mothers is not the answer, because it would also traumatize to small children. Child protection workers are in a Catch 22 situation. Techniques described in Part 2 can perhaps help the children traumatized by parents’ drug use.

The 13-year-old boy described above who is seeing an EMDR counselor for PTSD is healing at this time quite well.   We will publish a postscript with more advice.

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*Our information is mainly from CASA Columbia and also Ed Gogek’s book, Marijuana Debunked.  Several studies are mentioned in our six-part series on child abuse deaths related to pot.   Parents Opposed to Pot has tried to share stories with Futures Without Violence but they banned us.

brain-therapies

Successful Strategies for Deep Healing of Trauma and Pain

Using Mind-Body Connection for Deep Healing

The average medical marijuana cardholder in California is a 32-year-old male who uses it for chronic pain.  If so many young people have so much chronic pain, it’s tempting to think medical marijuana is for “anyone who can fake an ache.”*

Another part of the equation is that physical pain often develops as a result of emotional pain.  It’s also possible that many ‘patients,’ including those who are veterans, actually suffer from deep emotional pain and trauma.  (Read Part 1 for the Mind-Body Connection to trauma and pain.)

Two young women who wrote to Parents Opposed to Pot explained their need for medical marijuana to deal with traumatic childhoods. One said it was because her mother had committed suicide, while the other said she had experienced traumatizing sexual abuse.

Using marijuana in order to numb painful feelings, or for getting high, will only mask the underlying emotional pain. In all cases of psychological issues, including PTSD, marijuana works against true healing, no matter how much temporary relief it provides.

21st Century Strategies for Healing

Since pain or disease (dis  ease) is imbalance, the body which created the disease can also be the body which heals the disease.

Dr. Libby Stuyt, a professional advisor to Parents Opposed to Pot uses Brain Synchronization Therapy to heal trauma in the body and
bad memories. The neuroplasticity of the brain means that even post-traumatic experiences can be weakened or discarded. At the same time, the brain can relearn forgotten neural pathways.

Dr. Libby Stuyt is Medical Director for the Circle Program at the Colorado Mental Health Institute

Besides Brain Synchronization Therapy, Dr. Stuyt recommends both EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Recovery) and Biofeedback based on heart rate variability.

Neurofeedback is another therapy which can heal trauma, PTSD and ADHD without drugs.  Even the Washington Post describes very positive outcomes from Neurofeedback for healing additional problems such as depression and severe pain.

Some therapists have found a newer technique, Brainspotting, to be  even more effective than EMDR.   The theory is that Brainspotting taps into the body’s innate self-scanning capacity to process and release focused areas that are maladaptive.  Brainspotting can often reduce and eliminate body pain and tension associated with physical conditions.

Listen to Dr. Libby Stuyt’s video about why marijuana is not an effective treatment for PTSD.

Another technique, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy provides healing in which the victim need not remember or relive the painful experiences.   This therapy changes the brain’s reactions to events to change how legacy of trauma affects the victim.  Sensorimotor therapy treats the effects of events as they recur in response to reminders of the trauma.

Treating Root Causes Rather than Just the Symptoms

The good news is that there are ways to treat PTSD and chronic pain that don’t involve drugs, ways that treat the root causes rather than symptoms.  “Medical” marijuana does not provide deep healing.

Medical marijuana is an addiction-for-profit industry which needs new users and promotes long-term use.   Habitual users run the risk of becoming psychotic.  Like continuous opiate users, they may also develop addiction.

At the Alternative Wellness Club, published in Oregonlive, 2014, patients were introduced to “dabbing.” Some of these  users  claimed to have bipolar disorder which may in fact be related to trauma–or triggered by marijuana. Dabbing increases the risk for addiction and psychosis.

The recent report from National Academy of Science found marijuana can give moderate relief to three medical conditions, pain being one of the conditions.  Although the human body has cannabinoid receptors, marijuana’s cannabinoids are foreign to our bodies.  They’re not endo-cannabinoids, the body’s natural occurring chemicals, but exo-cannabinoids.  With marijuana use over time, THC will replace the cannabinoids associated with joy and happiness.

Therefore, it’s hard to claim THC is truly “natural” for humans.

Mind-body healing solutions are the “natural” solutions, and they cannot be addictive.  They offer help for chronic suffering in ways “medical” marijuana and pharmaceutical medicines cannot help.

Read Parts 3 and 4 to find out more about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and drug policy.

*Quote is from Professor Jonathan Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon.

It’s not ‘just’ marijuana

It’s Not ‘Just’ Marijuana

Allowing marijuana use will just give addiction a foot in the door

(It’s not ‘just’ marijuana originally posted in Central Maine Press on March 4, 2017)  Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinel (Maine)

BY ROBERT CHARLES

He came into my office with his hair on fire. A father, middle-aged. I made a habit of leaving my door on Capitol Hill open.

Most committee staff directors and counsels don’t do that; they have “gatekeepers.” Nominally, I did too, but I felt I worked for every taxpayer, every single one, and he was one.

My criminal justice committee, plus the speaker’s task force and bipartisan working group on narcotics and addiction that I ran, all focused on oversight. Part of the job was oversight of the Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and other federal agencies struggling with the spike of drug abuse that was happening then, in the 1990s.

I asked this upset father to come in. He had something obviously important on his mind. In that moment, I appeared to be “the federal government.” I pointed to the big stuffed chair, sat down myself and listened.

He was mid-sentence. “And he was a typical, strong, independent 18-year-old,” he was saying. I nodded. “And he was a good kid … I had been law enforcement, see? I found the pot in his room.” I nodded. “And he was a skier, loved to ski.”

When Teaching Moderation Didn’t Work

“I confronted him, knew what it was …” He seemed to be reliving that inflection point. “But I said, look, ’cause he was a good kid, I said, “OK, OK, look, everything in moderation.”

I did not say anything.

“It seemed OK, you know? That’s what they always said about other things. I wanted to keep the relationship with my son, you know? A good kid.”

The conversation poured out of him.

“Then things changed, he got distant. Other drugs, heroin. He tried to stop.” The father started to ramble. The law’s fault. The criminal justice system. His son had been stealing. Treatment. Friends who weren’t friends. More treatment. Profanity. Exasperation.

I listened. Sometimes that was all I could do. He had come to tell someone. He was looking for something, and I sensed I could not give it to him.

“So, you see, that was three years ago. I was a good dad, said everything in moderation … it was just marijuana.”

He looked up at me sharply. I knew there was more. Finally, it came.

“Last month, I went up there, top of the mountain, where he always skied. I took the ashes of my son, in a shoe box. I held him in a shoe box. The same son I had held 21 years ago as a baby. And I sprinkled his ashes there…”

We were both quiet. He cried. And I cried. I told him he was not alone. I told him many things about this terrible crisis that gripped us, gripped the nation. And he got, I think, some small, insignificant consolation.

That father wanted something I could not give him, beyond a hug and shared tears, and consideration for his agony. He wanted the moment back. The earlier moment. He wanted his son back.

Why No Caring and Empathy for Others’ Pain?

That was almost 20 years ago. The nation had lost 14,000 kids to overdoses that year. Congress wrote and passed the Drug Free Communities Act of 1997, Mental Health Parity Act of 1996, the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, and federal anti-drug trafficking laws, including against trafficking marijuana. And drug abuse went down — markedly.

People cared. They knew intuitively that narcotics — including marijuana — were not cigarettes, not beer. Attitudes changed, as they had back in the 1980s during the Ronald and Nancy Reagan years.

And then the great forgetting began again. Drug addiction — so often starting with marijuana, as it is readily available — began to climb again. Then the availability of opiates and heroin. No one paid attention.

And here we are, again, today. Only last year, more than 52,000 people died of drug overdoses, taken from loving, devastated parents, as well as siblings and friends. They want the status quo ante, those precious moments back, decisions back, sons and daughters back.

They want to be able to say, “No, marijuana is not harmless, not a good choice, not the right thing — no matter what voters or governments say.”

This week, I talked to another parent who lost her son to heroin, and began with marijuana.

I teared up again, a good kid, led in the wrong direction by a government that did not care enough to tell the truth, explain the trap door, the treachery of addiction that comes so often with marijuana. “We thought, you know … it was just marijuana.”

The truth? There is no “just” about it.

Robert Charles grew up in Maine who served as assistant secretary of state under Colin Powell.