Category Archives: Addiction

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.  Many newspapers have written about the children of the opioid crisis, but pot-using parents also contribute to the crisis.  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.

Policy More than other Factors Creates Problem of Drug Use

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.

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.

The Widespread Problem of Traumatized Children

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

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 separation from the moms also creates traumatized 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 has an excellent counselor for his his PTSD.  EMDR is working right now and providing the healing needed at this time.   A postscript will present more advice on how to provide help for traumatized children.

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*Our information is mainly from CASA Columbia.  A good current reference 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 from posting on their Facebook page.

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.

suicide-risk

Marijuana Use is Linked to Increased Suicide Risk

(Please see Part 1: Marijuana Suicide, a Growing Risk for our Youth)

Marijuana-related suicide is a controversial topic because other websites include commenters who claim marijuana saved their lives. Pot interferes with the reward center of the brain, just like cocaine, alcohol and heroin. So when someone dependent on the drug doesn’t have it, their depression or anxiety becomes stronger than previously.   After prolonged use, the brain eventually doesn’t function as well.

For this reason, it’s much wiser to rely on yoga, counseling, walking, and other exercise for depression and anxiety.  (Others will say that anti-depressants are safer, although we won’t actually endorse them, and don’t think they’re always necessary.)

suicide-risk
Source: Christine Miller, PhD

Marijuana increases the risk for psychosis more than any other drug.   Marijuana is not the panacea the pot industry wants you to believe.

What Conditions Increase Suicide Risk?

Daily marijuana use below age 18 is connected to 7x the risk of attempted suicide before age 30.

In today’s world, students have huge problems and challenges even if they don’t abuse substances.  Marijuana is the most likely drug of abuse for teens.  Any substance abuse –marijuana, alcohol, opiates, other drugs or a combination – generally makes the depression more difficult to overcome.

The town of Pueblo, Colorado has had an alarming trend of suicides among its teens, at least five this year.    Although local officials link these deaths to bullying, Pueblo is infiltrated with marijuana and other drugs.   Dr. Steven Simerville, head of pediatrics at a Pueblo hospital, has spoken about the connection between marijuana and teen suicide.   In October, 2016, he said that all but one of teens who attempted suicide had THC in their toxicology reports.

A few years ago studies showed that 28% of all high school students are depressed.  There are plenty of reasons for teens to be depressed in this society: hormonal change, social pressure, relationships and academics.  The social media adds a layer of complication to the problem with cyber bullying.  When a teen becomes an adult, additional challenges emerge, and for some, entry into adulthood is jolting.

Family relationships and community connection are important.  With support systems, many youth go through the rough patches and come out stronger.  It’s a reason that government needs to protect our youth, educate against marijuana and stop legalization.  

From the Moms Strong website, provided by Dr. Christine Miller, PhD

Suicide is Increasing Above National Rate in Colorado

The opposite is occurring in Colorado.  Suicide rates in Colorado have reached all-time highs, according to a recent report by the Colorado Health Institute.   Each one of Colorado’s 21 health regions had a suicide rate higher than the national average.

Those old enough to go into dispensaries can see how the pot industry advertises marijuana to treat depression or anxiety.    Dispensaries prey on the vulnerable.  For veterans and those without a job, it’s hard to resist.

When the pot industry tells us that “no one ever died from marijuana,” they’re being dishonest.  There’s a popular strain of marijuana called Purple Suicide.  There’s also a line of vape pens called Suicide Girls, specifically marketed for using honey/hash oil.  Makers of the vape pens and marketers of Purple Suicide are onto something: marijuana use increases the suicide risk.

When they assert the numbers of those who die from alcohol each year, please ask who is tracking deaths from marijuana.   Maybe it is time for the CDC to start tracking marijuana-related deaths.   Please read Part 3, The Common Element.

Marijuana and Suicide: A Growing Risk for Our Youth

When Hamza Warsame fell six floors to his death in December, 2015, the social media was abuzz with suggestions of a hate crime against the Muslim teen.  Warsame, an immigrant from Somalia, was living in Seattle and had been invited to the  21-year-old classmate’s apartment.

Hamza Warsame.  The 16-year-old killed himself after using only once, a reflection of the high potency of today’s pot.

However, the news came out that Warsame had smoked marijuana for the first time and had a psychotic reaction.  He may have tried to jump to the next building’s roof.   It wasn’t legal for a 16- year-old to smoke marijuana.  But Washington is a marijuana state, and his 21-year-old classmate had bought it legitimately at a dispensary.  (Signs along the highways of Washington warn that it’s illegal to buy or give alcohol to those under age 21. There should be similar warnings for marijuana.)

Warsame’s death was from smoking today’s high potency ganja, not the edibles.   At least two young men, Luke Goodman, 23, and Levy Thamba, 19, killed themselves in Colorado after eating marijuana edibles which made them psychotic.  In Colorado, edibles first went on sale for recreational purposes beginning in January, 2014.   Many people read about New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s experience with marijuana.   A mother also wrote a New York Times column about that marijuana chocolate bar that put her son on suicide watch.

Less well known are the stories of Brant Clark and Daniel Juarez, featured on a CBS News Report of May, 2015.  High potency pot has been the norm in Colorado since the early 2000s.  Psychosis and hallucinations occur quite frequently.   These teens became psychotic and killed themselves — before Coloradans voted to legalize recreational marijuana.

Tron Dohse, from the website of CBS4 News    Photo of Daniel Juarez on top is also from the CBS affiliate in Denver.

Tron Dohse was a young adult featured in the same evening news report that reported about Clark and Juarez. He overdosed on marijuana and fell to his death while trying to climb a building.

As one Colorado resident said, “If residents had known the horror story of why Daniel Juarez death in 2012, they never would have voted to legalize.”  (Juarez’s photo is on top of the page.)

More Recent Suicides

More recently, there were the marijuana-related suicides Marc Bullard and Rashaan Salaam in Colorado. (These are the stories that made the news, so we don’t mention recent suicides from pot not in the news.)  Salaam was 41, a former Heisman Trophy winner.  He had a promising football career until 1999, when he lost his energy and began spending time smoking pot.   He never got his life back and when he died there was 55 ng. of THC in his blood.

Like Salaam, Marc Bullard was living in Colorado at the time of his death.   The Texas native had been a high school valedictorian, a successful college student and had landed a dream job.   However, he had moved to Colorado and was doing dabs.  In his journal, he recorded the downward spiral of depression and his inability to stop doing marijuana dabs.    He was 23.

A landmark study published in the Lancet Psychiatry Journal, September, 2014, tracked teenage marijuana use in Australia and New Zealand.   The subjects were tested for a variety of outcomes by age 30.  The evidence showed that consistent early use below age 18 is connected to 7x the risk of attempted suicide before age 30.

Not all suicide attempts are successful.   But it is shocking and traumatizes a family when someone attempts suicide.   Parent have written of these events and how it affects their families, I wish We had Never Moved Here and My Son’s Psychiatric Surprise.  Another striking story of survival is on the MomsStrong.org website.   Part 2 will explain more about the suicide risk with marijuana.  Part 3 will have more specific information about marijuana victims Daniel Juarez, Levy Thamba, Andy Zorn and Shane Robinson.