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Parenting through the Haze - Did you introduce your child to drugs?

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Out of all the things you do mostly right most of the time, why look at the things that began in your youth that should be looked at and was probably against the law. "I smoke pot once in a while. I have a good job, my marriage is strong and I'm in decent shape. It's never been a problem for me. So what do I tell my kid if I think they're smoking?"

Or worse, what do I say if they find my stash or "mommy's stuff"? Marsha Rosenbaum holds a doctorate in medical sociology from UC San Francisco and has researched drug issues for 20 years. Rosenbaum states, these parents are not medicinal marijuana users or legalization advocates. They are teachers, medical billers and homeroom teachers. They smoke marijuana occasionally -- socially, "like a glass of wine" is a common comparison. They think nothing is wrong with this behavior, and they are breaking the law.

Lynn, a 32-year-old mother of three from Arlington, TX, did not find the parent/pot story amusing. "If you have to smoke pot to get through the day with your family, there is something wrong," she says. When Lynn was a teen, her mom used to smoke marijuana, and Lynn hated it. "I knew it was illegal, and I knew it cost money we didn't have," she remembers. "It's horrible that a parent would get high when their job is to be responsible."

Yet more and more parents are doing just that. A surprisingly high 18 percent of people ages 26 to 34, and 9 percent of those 35 to 49, have smoked pot in the last year, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (The data doesn't pinpoint how many of those people have kids, but we know that by age 44, about 80 percent of women do.)

Sure, pot might help a mom relax, but the habit may seem more harmful if her kids pick it up down the line, and the relaxation comes with a cost. The parents I talked to hide their stashes, because they don't want their children to become pot smokers, even if they do it themselves. With good reason: Marijuana, like any drug, is dangerous to children's developing brains. "There is something called pruning that happens in the brain of an adolescent," says drug expert and New York City psychiatrist Julie Holland, M.D.

"In earlier years, kids' brains are making connections and growing larger with information. In the late teen years, the brain starts remodeling itself." Drugs can interfere with this fragile, ever-changing architecture and leave young brains more vulnerable to mental health problems like psychosis.

If a mom smokes pot, she pretty much guaranteeing that her child will too. "Parents are definitely role models," Sophy says, but it's not a foregone conclusion. "I have adult patients who smoke pot who have kids that don't want anything to do with it, and I have others who don't touch drugs, but their kids are out of control. It's more about genetics and mental health." Still, Jennifer, 33, a juvenile probation officer in Pennsylvania, says there are plenty of ways that smoking pot can hurt your kids, even if they don't follow in your footsteps.

"Pot-smoking parents are essentially telling kids that it's okay to obey the law when you want them to," she says, "but that if it isn't a law you agree with, go ahead and break it." The fact is, recreational pot use is illegal throughout the country. Depending on where you live, there can be consequences including jail time, fines, and probation. Even in California there are legal risks, particularly for parents.

Sophy is also the Medical Director of the County of Los Angeles Department of Children, where one of his jobs is to help determine whether kids should be taken away from drug-using parents. Every day he sees parents who have underestimated the repercussions of smoking pot — in rare cases, he's seen children sent to live with relatives.

Now the fight has gotten even bigger as pot has become a gateway drug for even bigger drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and prescription pills in large quantities. To pay for these habits, the teens then begin to commit petty crimes such as shop lifting, and other reckless crimes. The recklessness of introducing a teen to ANY drug is irresponsible parenting, period. What will you say when you are visiting through the bullet proof glass, or identifying remains? Peace.

To keep up with the most current articles from Wendi, the Indiana Addiction Recovery Examiner, click the subscribe link at the top of the page to receive email notification when new articles are published. Please leave a comment for any article.

All articles by Wendi Swindell are under copyright and cannot be reposted in part or completely without written permission by the author. For permission, email wnmtr@hotmail.com.

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