20% Say They Used Drugs With a Parent

20% Say They Used Drugs With a Parent
Posted by FoM on August 23, 2000 at 22:58:27 PT
By Donna Leinwand, USA TODAY
Source: USA Today
They are scenes that paint a startling picture of the drug culture's legacy on American home life: A teenage girl shares her hopes and dreams with her mother  as they binge on methamphetamines. A boy bonds with his father over a marijuana-filled bong.For the vast majority of families, scenes such as these are hard to fathom. But counselors who deal with teen addicts across the USA say that parents' complicity has become a significant factor in putting kids on a path to drug dependency.
A new survey of nearly 600 teens in drug treatment in New York, Texas, Florida and California indicated that 20% have shared drugs other than alcohol with their parents, and that about 5% of the teens actually were introduced to drugs  usually marijuana  by their moms or dads.The survey follows a report from 1999 by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America in which 8% of teens in the overall population who said they had been offered drugs indicated that at least some of the offers came from a parent.Classmates or neighborhood friends remain far and away the most likely sources of drugs for teens. But counselors say the latest survey documents a troubling trend: Some baby boomers who came of age as the drug culture exploded in the '60s and '70s are enablers for their children who experiment with drugs."I don't think we're at the peak of it yet," says David Rosenker , vice president of adolescent services at the Caron Foundation, a treatment program in Wernersville, Pa., that sees 6,000 kids a year. "We already see it a lot: baby boomer parents who are still using and still having a problem with their use. They're buying for their kids, smoking pot with their kids, using heroin with their kids. "When I started (working with youths) in the mid-'70s, this was not happening."Addiction specialists say it is happening now because of a range of factors that show how the rise in recreational drug use has altered traditional parent-child relationships, regardless of families' race or economic status:A small percentage of boomer parents have never given up drugs, and so their children see drug use and addiction as normal.Some parents believe that sharing an occasional joint with their teenager can ease family tensions and make a parent seem more like a buddy in whom their teen can confide. Parents also might view it as an easy way to explain their own past drug use.Other parents regard marijuana use as a relatively harmless rite of passage for young adults. It was for boomers; almost 60% of those born in the USA from 1946 through 1964 say they have smoked pot at some point in their lives, a Partnership survey found in 1999. But since boomers' days of rebellion, the drug landscape has changed. A smaller percentage of youths are using drugs regularly, but marijuana and other drugs are more potent than ever, and first-time users are more likely to be in middle school than in college.Many parents  75% in the Partnership survey  say they believe that most people will try illegal drugs at some point. Some parents, counselors say, naively figure that they're "protecting" their kids by allowing or even encouraging some drug use in the home.'Do It At Home'Pamela Straub, 43, of Whittier, Calif., developed a drug habit in junior high school. So when her own daughter, Felicia Nunnink, discovered her stash of marijuana in a living room cabinet, Straub decided to lay down some rules."I just didn't want her out on the streets," says Straub, whose own drug use left her addicted to a range of drugs and homeless at one point. "I told her I'd rather have her do it at home where I could keep an eye on her. I smoked pot with Felicia. I can't really say if I was right or wrong. Well, now I guess I'm pretty sure I was wrong." Straub says she has been drug-free for more than five years.Nunnink, now 22, looks back fondly to her teenage days when she shared joints with her mother. Mellowed by the marijuana, she says she felt close to her, and they talked  more like friends than mother and daughter."At the time, I wanted to do it because I thought it was the only way to get a bond with my mom," says Nunnink, who moved on to methamphetamines, which she and her mother also shared. "It was cool. My house was where the kids came over to get high."But Nunnink soon found she couldn't stop taking drugs. Now she's in rehabilitation and is thinking about what she would tell children she might have someday about drugs. "I would be very open with my kids about drugs and what they did to me. It really messed up my life," she says. "I think it's a bad idea even to smoke pot in front of kids." Counselors say that Straub's actions, however well-meaning, show how parents can blur the boundaries between childhood and adulthood, sowing confusion for teens."We have 35 years of drug culture now," says Mitchell Rosenthal, president of the Phoenix House drug treatment program in New York, which conducted the new study of teen addicts. Rosenthal says he commissioned the study after speaking with three California teens who had used drugs with their parents. Phoenix House arranged for USA TODAY to discuss the study with several teens in its program."Many people who experimented with drugs in their own adolescence may be regular users, and many of them have children," he says. "Parents who do not set limits and who try to be buddies with their kids are doing their kids a real disservice. Kids have to be helped to control their impulses. They are not helped by parents who want to jump into the playpen."Parents Set The Standard:On the flip side, parents can be a huge influence in steering a child from drugs, says Steve Dnistrian, executive vice president of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. "You have perhaps the most drug-savvy group of parents ever," he says. "They have been there and done that, and they do not want their kids using drugs. But we have a disconnect. "Most of them have a difficulty knowing what to say persuasively on this issue," Dnistrian says. "Dare the question come up: 'Mom, Dad, did you get high?' So you avoid it. You don't deal with it. Then someone else deals with it for you by offering your kids drugs."Dnistrian recommends honesty. Tell your children what you learned from the past and set high expectations for them, he advises ."If you are trying to establish expectations for your teenagers to meet, and you lower those expectations yourself by essentially giving them a green light to drink or smoke pot in your house, then you're really pulling the rug out from under yourself," Dnistrian says. "Parents who say their kids are going to smoke and drink anyway so they may as well do it here  that's like setting the standard at 'C.' So don't be surprised if they come home and tell you they've snorted cocaine or dropped acid. You've opened the door."Although the Phoenix House survey covers only teens who already have gotten into trouble with drugs, Dnistrian says it underscores the vulnerability of children in families that use drugs."It tells you how ingrained substance abuse is in the family structure," he says. "These parents are so familiar with it and so close to it that they are willing to pass the joint to their children. This is something we have to watch."Blurring Traditional Roles:In hindsight, Jason, 17, a recovering addict from an upper middle-class family in Simi Valley, Calif., says he wishes his father had been more of a parent and less of a buddy when it came to marijuana.Jason, whose last name is being withheld because he is a juvenile, says he first tried pot in the sixth grade with some classmates. He managed to hide signs of his drug use from his parents, who regularly attended his hockey games, scheduled family outings and vacations and kept tabs on his schoolwork.Then he made his first drug purchase: a $5 bag of pot. Jason says his father walked by his room's open door as he was stashing it in a dresser drawer."He told me about his marijuana use," Jason says. "We went into his office, and he had a (water pipe) and we got high together. I thought he was sooo cool."They began smoking together once a week."I felt a bond between me and my father when we were getting high," Jason says. "It's like a father-son experience. I had a warmth inside me like, 'My dad, he's cool.' I love him. We would talk about life."Jason says his father told him that a little marijuana would be OK if he kept up his grades, played sports, avoided fights and practiced safe sex. His father condemned other drugs and despised Jason's cigarette habit, the teen says."He wouldn't see a problem with marijuana if you could handle your priorities," Jason says.But Jason couldn't. He started smoking pot almost every day. He began defying teachers, ditching school and skipping hockey practice. "I was taking our household pets and selling them for money for drugs," says Jason, now in drug treatment at a Phoenix House in Orange County, Calif. "I took my brother's 3-foot iguana and sold it for a bag of weed. That's low."Jason says marijuana "didn't interfere in any way with (his father's) life. It did mine. I guess the addicted gene skipped him and hit me." Contacted by officials at Phoenix House, Jason's parents confirmed his story but declined to comment further.This isn't Jason's first shot at getting clean. He spent his 14th birthday in drug treatment, his 15th at a boot camp for troubled youths, his 16th in a group home and his 17th at Phoenix House. He wants to spend his 18th birthday like a typical teenager. Looking back, he wishes his parents had tightened the reins earlier."Kids want parents to be friends," he says. "Parents need to realize it's more beneficial in the long run for parents to be parents. There are enough people outside telling us that things that are not OK are OK. Parents should be a safety zone."A Family's Cycle of Addiction:In a few families, drug use has been passed on as though it were a tradition.La,Kiesha, 15, of Southern California, is the third generation of a family in which members have become addicted to drugs. La,Kiesha says her grandmother smoked pot regularly and gave her a few puffs when she was 5 years old, to settle her down before bedtime.La,Kiesha's mother, Latricia, 32, says that while growing up she never thought of marijuana as a drug. She says her mother was a church-going licensed nurse who made sure the rent was paid and food was in the pantry, and who saw marijuana as "a natural herb." Their surname is being withheld because La,Kiesha is a juvenile."My mother didn't look at it as a problem or addiction," Latricia says. "She felt as long as I was doing things at home, I was out of harm's way."But the marijuana launched steep, parallel declines for Latricia and her daughter that landed both of them in rehabilitation."They say marijuana is a gateway drug, and it can be," says La,Kiesha, who eventually moved on to PCP and alcohol abuse. "Marijuana was for the days I wanted to come down."La,Kiesha says she stopped smoking and drinking 11 months ago. Her mother, now a counselor, has been clean for five years. Now La,Kiesha is vowing to break her family's cycle of drug use."I'm going to educate my children about drugs and the harm it can cause. I'm going to say, 'I don't want you to go down that road,' " La,Kiesha says.Notes From Article:"It's a family history that I want to break." Among reasons: Boomer culture and misguided attempts to bond.Teen addicts point to parents. How To Steer Kids from Drugs To Steer Kids from DrugsTips for steering children away from drugs, and what to do if you suspect they are using them: Discuss drug use with your children and establish family rules. It is extremely important to establish a clear "no drugs" mandate and to make sure it's communicated clearly to your children.Impose whatever course of discipline your family has decided on for violating the rules and stick to it. Don't relent because your child promises never to do it again.Never confront a child who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Wait until he or she is sober, and then discuss your suspicions with your child calmly and objectively.If you think your child is not being truthful and the evidence is pretty strong, you might want to have him or her evaluated by a health professional experienced in diagnosing youths with alcohol- and drug-related problems. Have your family doctor or local clinic examine your child to rule out illness or other physical problems. If your child has a pattern of drug use, you will probably need help to intervene. To find out about drug treatment programs in your area, call your doctor, local hospital, state or local substance-abuse agencies or county mental health society for a referral. Your school district also should have a substance abuse coordinator or a counselor who can refer you to treatment programs.Source: U.S. Department of EducationSource: USA Today (US)Published: August 23, 2000Copyright: 2000 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.Contact: editor usatoday.comAddress: 1000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington VA 22229Fax: (703) 247-3108Website: Articles: Just Say No or Just Know? Should You Tell Your Kids About Your Drug Use
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Comment #4 posted by legalizeit on August 25, 2000 at 09:32:44 PT
Nightline special last night
I watched Nightline's special on this subject. A psychologist who profits from kids who need treatment, a nark, and the author of the book "The Fix" debated the issue. Naturally, the author was the only one who injected sense into the debate, correctly stating that it is unwise to center on "drugs" as the problem and that kids who do drugs with parents are victims to a much wider picture.As always, the media tries to steer the public into believing that drugs in and of themselves are the cause of all evils in society. 
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Comment #3 posted by freedom fighter on August 24, 2000 at 13:25:20 PT
demonizing the parents
In 1980, They said that it was the parent's lack of communication that cause all the drug abuse problemToday, they said it was parent's willing to smoke a joint and not talk to children about it.The author seemed to be saying that the parents cannot control their children so that the government can now take "control" of our children.If 54% of this year high school graduates have   one time or another took a toke or two, you can bet your bottom that not every one of them had to steal housepets to buy drugs.What is so interesting about this is that often children are the one who's supplying us older folks. If you check to see how many wars are won by one group, you will often find it was the children who became warriors and they are truly efficient war machine. So our almighty government is so scared of this group and is trying so hard to control them. So it always has been about "Control". It never had to do with the drugs. It took 30 years before United States stopped the war in Vietnam. We are just starting out in Colombia. Do we as parent want another 30 years of black body bags? Our government is saying we are helpless and are not able to control ourselves as well as our children. This is insulting to an average america family. 
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Comment #2 posted by kaptinemo on August 24, 2000 at 09:44:39 PT:
R. Earing, I couldn't agree more.
My parents never pulled any punches with me. When it came time to discuss the inevitable, they sat us kids down and gave us the straight skinny about a lot of things. Sex. And alcohol. The ups and the downs. No convolutions, no prevarications. No dissembling. Just the facts. What it does, and the prices you can pay for using it. And they made it clear that they wanted us to learn our limits *before* we made fools of our selves and brought shame to our family. And my father's injunction against drunk driving was especially chilling; namely, that it's not fair to make an already dangerous environment (the highways) even more so by getting sloshed and trying to navigate. He made it plain that if I did, when I was caught, whatever happened after that I deserved.Then they put the liquor bottles in the bottom cupboard. There were never any pencil marks on the labels. But because they were straight with me, I had no interest. By de-mystifying it, by de-glamourizing it, they removed any real incentive.I know how lucky I was, to have had parents like that, as their counsel had saved me a lot of grief that many of my college peers had to learn the hard way.But it serves to illustrate a point that is hardly original: when previously 'forbidden fruit' can be had at the grocery store, somehow it lessens the sweetness of it. Something that you would think alocohol prohibition would have taught the governmemnt. But it is always light years behind the rest of us.
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Comment #1 posted by r.earing on August 24, 2000 at 08:54:39 PT:
typically skewed reporting
How come USA Today never covers the story of the kid that shared with his parents,maintained his grades and went on to Harvard med school? All the kids reported on in this article fell victim to the evil "GATEWAY DRUG" and moved on to harder stuff.I personally know plenty of people who are quite content to drink and smoke MJ socially without immediately switching to meth or heroin. I think informed and honest parents are the best protection against progression to hard drug addiction,rather than being a contributing cause.
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