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Parents alarmed at: 'It's only pot'

November 15, 2012
Dear Jeff and Debra, Our 17-year old-son has been open with us about occasionally smoking pot. He says: "It's only pot," and "You used to smoke pot when you were a kid, too." My husband and I don't have very good answers for him, and the truth is we did smoke a little pot in college. I understand that pot is different today than it was back in the 1980s. Can you give us some facts? POTTED PARENTS Dear Potted, We hear these concerns frequently. Therapist, Jamie Loffredo is a specialist in this area, so we interviewed him for the latest information. Q: How is the pot of today different from the pot of years ago? A: There is a huge increase in the potency of today's cannabis. In the 1970s cannabis was typically 3 percent THC. Cannabis marketed and sold as medicinal marijuana ranges in potency from 20 to 25 percent THC. Another obvious difference is in the way it's being grown. In the past, marijuana was imported from Mexico and South America or grown outdoors throughout the United States. Now marijuana is grown indoors with artifi cial lights and techniques speed up the growth cycle and increase the potency of the drug. There is nothing natural about the process. Availability is another issue. It's everywhere. Some 18 year olds with medical marijuana cards buy pot at a dispensary and sell it. Q: What are the most common mistakes families make? A: Teens minimize the impact of drug use. This is reinforced by the media, which often glorifi es it. Drug use is also rationalized by other professionals who see it as a phase. It's also minimized by parents, who want to look the other way or smoke it with their children. Everyone looks at other negative consequences in the teen's life, such as bad grades, strained relationships, legal problems and escalation to additional substances, yet I'm continually told by teens and adults, "it's only weed." There are also a lot of mental health issues that develop from using cannabis, including anxiety, depression, being withdrawn, isolation and disrupted sleep patterns. Parents focus on the symptoms and not the drug use. Medications do not fi x substance induced mental health problems, in most cases. Abstinence and time are the natural way to reduce or eliminate those symptoms. There is an increase in calls concerning people in their teens and 20s with symptoms that look like psychosis. The cause is often marijuana with high levels of THC, and the use of stimulants, prescribed to treat ADHD. This combination creates problems in the mental health world, because both drugs are seen as relatively benign. With complete abstinence and a program of recovery, the mental health symptoms will normally disappear. Q: What is a typical age of fi rst use? When do parents first find out? A: Middle school. There is an increase in children's use of illicit drugs that come from the medicine cabinet. It's easier to take a pill than it is to smoke or drink something. Xanax, Klonopin and Vicodin are commonplace. Parents don't usually catch on until the latter part of high school when the consequences begin to mount up. Q: How do synthetic drugs and synthetic marijuana complicate the problem? A: They are harder to test for, have more adverse symptoms and are uncontrolled. Substances like K2, Spice and others are readily available. And experts have no idea what substances are going into some of the synthetic marijuana. The Jays have seen an increase in psychiatric symptoms associated with marijuana use and synthetic marijuana use. To parents: The pot of today bears no resemblance to the pot of previous generations. It is a different drug in terms of potency and unwanted side effects. Pot is still illegal and cannot be sanctioned by any adult without opening the door to other illegal activities. The Jay are the authors of "Love First." All their books are available as ebooks for Kindle or iPad. Contact them or James Loffredo lovefi rst.net/ or by calling (313) 882-6921.

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