Straight Talk Advice

Sep 15, 2010

Pot-smoking parent misguided in letting teen smoke

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: Regarding the column about the daughter upset over her father smoking pot (Aug 11), I wish you had taken a stronger stand against pot. My stepfather smokes pot and since it doesn’t harmfully affect him, he sees no reason not to allow my 16-year-old stepsister (his daughter), to smoke it. Plus it would be hard to stop her anyway since he’s doing it. It has a horrible effect on her. I would just let it be her problem, but we share a room. She goes from being hyperactive when she’s high — often stripping off her clothes to feel “free,” while laughing at my annoyance — to being a zombie when she comes down. She’s gone from being a good student to having zero interest in school, getting all D’s and F’s and cutting classes. Nobody can tell me pot isn’t harmful because I live in the same room with proof that it is. — Kristen, Sacramento, Calif.

DEAR KRISTEN: Let me repeat my stand on pot. Today’s strong pot has very negative neurological effects on some kids — and these effects can become chronic. Other kids continue to ace their tests and be wildly successful. The paradox makes for confusion and denial in confronting marijuana for the multitude of parents, teachers, even rehab workers, who smoke currently or in the past, most of whom have never experienced these negative effects (in the past because pot was 10-25 percent weaker, and currently because most adults avoid substances incompatible with their personal chemistry).

Parents, let’s end the confusion now: If your kid’s grades, energy, or interest in school dives, or their eyes look “wrong,” immediately suspect pot or pills and get them to outpatient rehab for testing. Pot may have a place medically, and even recreationally for adults over 21 (as society has allowed for alcohol), but it’s terrible for teens. Even for kids who seem okay with it, it takes a toll.

Kristen, what your stepfather is doing is equivalent to letting his kid get drunk at home. Even if pot is legalized, this would be illegal. Your stepfather could easily prohibit his daughter from using even though he uses; drinking parents do it all the time. Your stepsister needs rehab. I urge you to talk to a school counselor about the situation. Read on for another “brain on drugs” story from Gregg.

Gregg 19, Sacramento, Calif. Ask me a question

I started smoking in sophomore year to ease anxiety. Lots of friends started, too, and I noticed right off how differently it affected us. One friend didn’t seem affected at all. He had amazing clarity in his thinking and often a very active high. My other friends were less affected, too.

For me, what a joke. Even when I wasn’t high, doing homework was like digging a well with a spoon. In school, I couldn’t focus on the simplest things. I would think about a problem over and over, unable to find a solution or even drop the problem. Decision-making became so impossible I often flipped a coin. (You can imagine the problems that caused.) Needless to say, my grades and interest in school dropped.

I acted differently, too. I was super awkward when high, my body language was off, I was always tired, and pot was my only interest. My friends noticed I was different and began avoiding me.

Only after six months with an outpatient rehab counselor, did I get clean. But it took being 100 percent clean (no screw-ups) for two solid months to finally see how stupid and unproductive pot made me. I’ve been clean a year. Now it’s easy to refuse pot, even in college. Now I just laugh at the high kids. Mostly I’m laughing from the pure joy of being sober and free; it just feels so good!

Editor’s Note: I really appreciate Kristen’s and Gregg’s sharing. We need to see more profiles of teens who are negatively affected by pot — and get out of our denial around pot. In the same way that some people are poisoned by alcohol, others are poisoned by pot. Today’s pot is just too strong and teens are too young and neurologically undeveloped when they smoke it. With pot being so prevalent (surveys show that it is more available and easier to purchase for high school students than alcohol), I hope teenagers see themselves in these profiles and quit immediately realizing it’s just “not their drug.” When it has a bad effect, continued use can lead to long-lasting or permanent mental problems that in most cases would never have surfaced if it wasn’t for the pot. If you have a friend who is not doing well on pot, tell his or her parents and show them this column. Seeing a rehab counselor once a week can get your friend’s life back. —Lauren

  1. By Ashley, age , from Auburn, CA on 09/15/2010

    I had issues with pot as well it gave me horrible anxiety and panic attacks, it did the same thing to my brother! It wasn’t like that at first but later on it got worse and worse! I finally had to quit I haven’t smoked in years i just don’t like it. I even heard pot can bring out unbderlying mental disorders like schizophrenia and bi polar in some people if it runs in the family. Although there are no deaths from marijuana it doesn’t mean it can’t negatively affect you.

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  2. By Cassie, age , from Santa Rosa, CA on 09/15/2010

    My former best friend and her sister are allowed to smoke pot in their room.  Their dad smoked it in college and is now a successful attorney, so he doesn’t think it’s harmful.  Their room reeks of pot smoke and I couldn’t stand it, so I stopped going over there and found new friends to hang out with.  And after she got really into pot she was no longer the same person I had grown up with as a close friend.  Pot became the center of her life.  I don’t believe those who say it isn’t harmful.

    Cassie

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  3. By Kathy, age , from Lodi, CA on 09/16/2010

    My sister confided in me that she’s been smoking pot with her boyfriend and lately I have seen a terrible negative effect on her.  However, we have a pact that we can tell each other anything “sister to sister” in our room and it just stays between us, so I don’t want to break her confidence by telling our mom.  She’s a single parent very busy with her job and social life and doesn’t seem to have noticed the changes in my sister.  We hardly ever see our dad who lives in Southern California.  But when you live in the same room with somebody, you can’t help but see what’s going on.  They usually do it on weekends and my sister’s often totally “zonked out” the whole next day,  but our mom works graveyard at a hospital on weekends and is either working or sleeping most of the time, so she doesn’t see her this way.  My sister’s often so out of it that she doesn’t get dressed all day and just lays around nude or in her thong underwear all day.  It doesn’t bother me to see her this way since we’re sisters, but it makes me too embarrassed to have friends over, even girlfriends which I don’t think is right.  She really needs help, but I don’t know how to do it without betraying our “sister to sister” pact and having our mom find out and knowing her she would probably ground her for life.  I can definitely say that POT IS HARMFULL!  If anybody knows a way I can get help for my sister under these circumstances, I would be glad to hear it.

    Kathy

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  4. By L.J., age , from Reno, NV on 09/16/2010

    Kathy,  you need to tell your mom and tell her today! I speak from experience.  I was just like your sister and my sister telling our mom was the only way that I got help.  I’m still in rehab and it’s hard, but I’m determined to make it.  At first, I was furious with my sister and made it hell for her to share a room with me.  But now I’m very thankful, and I guarantee you that your sister will thank you in the end, even if not right away.  Look at it this way: if your sister was drowning or bleeding to death would you get her help even if it meant betraying her confidence?  Of course you would.  This is really the same thing, even if the process is slower, it will still kill or or ruin her life.  Breaking a confidence should not be done likely, but there are exceptions to every rule and this is one of them.  Trust me, your sister will thank you in the long run and if you love her you will not keep silent.

    Been There

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  5. By Sarah, age , from Salinas on 10/06/2010

    I don’t want to sound prissy or anything, but I think I’m blessed to go to a privite school especially since the public school I would be going to is kind of… well… awful. The worst of what I’m exposed to is someone in my class bringing a ziploc bag of sugar to school, putting it on paper, and using a straw from our hot lunch program to sniff it, or whatever. Again, I’m blessed to go to a school where drugs are frowned upon EVEN BY THE STUDENTS. One girl who will not be named was not pressured by her peers, but pressured herself to do the same. I was shocked. I knew that she had a counselor (our school doesn’t have one), and there were rumors said that she had tried to commit suicide multiple times, but I never knew she would go this far. After she did it, she, and the guy who brought it started laughing like they had got high on SUGAR. It doesn’t sound that bad, sniffing sugar whoopdeedoo, but next thing you know, she could be smoking pot. I’m really scared for her. After school that day, I knew I should tell my mom, but if she told the girl’s mom, the girl’s mom would know who told. But the next day, I summoned up my courage and told her. I felt better after, as if I had influenced someone’s life. I believe telling parents gets easier the more times you do it. Even though I’m not very popular among my classmates, it gave me a sense of unity when my peers prayed for people who had tried to commit suicide, did drugs or drug lookalikes, etc. in our religion class. Our religion teacher gave us a funny look after nearly everyone in the class had prayed all of us with a secret underlying message: to stop drugs.

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