Last week, Jon Daily, LCSW, CADC-II, spoke to therapists, physicians and counselors at Sierra Vista Hospital about the challenge Proposition 64 presents youth. Passed last November, Proposition 64 is California legislation that decriminalizes and regulates the cultivation and sales of marijuana for recreational use for people 21 years and older.
Daily is the founder of Recovery Happens, a drug and alcohol counseling and outpatient treatment center with locations in Fair Oaks, Davis, Roseville and Walnut Creek. Born and raised in South Sacramento, he has first-hand experience with drug addiction as a teenager and recovery as a young adult. A father of five children, Daily opened his talk by acknowledging that he is currently in the fight of his life with brain cancer which had been in remission for six years. “I know I should have been incarcerated and dead, and yet here I am,” he said. “Six years ago I was diagnosed with brain cancer, which by the grace of God [with treatment] was in remission. I was recently informed that the cancer returned.”
So it was with great gratitude for his own God-given life of recovery, and the courage of his faith in Christ, that I heard Daily engage the audience about the most important things people need to understand in order to respond well to the consequences of decriminalizing recreational use of marijuana.
Below are the talking points he shared as I gleaned them. I believe these insights can help parents be well-informed, and confident in communicating prevention expectations with their own teens.
Your child is never too young to talk to them about recreational drug use or abuse of prescribed medications and alcohol. According to the research, the average age of first use of drugs and/or alcohol is 12. By the time your child is in the fifth or sixth grade, the chances are good that someone, perhaps an older sibling of a peer, will be offering drugs and/or alcohol.
Proposition 64 sends a signal to our youth and community at large that using marijuana is safe and legal. The federal classification for marijuana use has not changed, although many states, like California, are decriminalizing and regulating use. The other real phenomenon fueling the lowered perceived risk of harm for youth is that many adults are using marijuana today, and many adults who had used marijuana in the 1980’s, for example, do not realize the potency and more intense ways pot is consumed. Marijuana is by-and-large perceived as very low risk in our culture. So it is important to educate one another about the nature of marijuana use today and the potential risk of harm to youth.
Risk of harm is real, legal or not. Parents and teens need to treat marijuana as risky, just like alcohol and prescription drugs when abused. Brain science teaches us that the young brain is still developing until the mid-twenties and the last part of the brain to develop is the frontal lobe which oversees executive function (decision-making). So anything that is introduced to interfere with the communication of neurotransmitters during this period of brain development hinders creation of the neuro biochemical reward system connected to human relationships. As I understand Daily’s insight, the risk of addiction for youth is great because the brain’s “feel good, I feel loved and secure” reward system becomes built around the chemical intoxication, thus creating a dependency turning young hearts and minds away from healthy relationships with the Lord and family.
Not your mother’s or grandmother’s pot. The chemical component in marijuana that impacts your brain to give it a high is tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC. Daily cautions folks that today’s marijuana contains much higher THC levels than that of previous generations, some strains are five times more potent. Also, marijuana is processed in ways that deliver higher concentration of THC levels. These are known as concentrates which are smoked and used in edibles (such as candy bars, cookies, snacks). Overconsumption of more potent products have been associated with instances of psychotic breaks, and some youth experience withdrawal symptoms that require medical attention.
Be careful not to minimize the risk of harm. Daily’s personal experience, addiction recovery treatment practice, and brain science research reveals that addiction is a pathological relationship to intoxication, not to the drug. If a child uses marijuana, and the marijuana is taken away, the brain will crave intoxication, and the child will find another way to get “high”…it might be alcohol, or another substance. “We must consider marijuana, beer and heroin as the same potential threat of harm,” Daily said. By classifying some drugs as safer than others, it will likely be interpreted as permission to use or less perceived risk of harm. As with all things, they can be used for good or not good – wisdom is critical. Your job as the parent is to impart your wisdom. As the parent, you have the ability to set an expectation of “no drug” use, including marijuana, because you are providing protective cover for the healthy development of their brain.
One of the challenges with the normalization of marijuana use includes inadvertently ingesting high doses of TCH with concentrates put into edibles. “I tell my own children that when they are at social events with peers, to not take a drink offered them, and bring their own beverage and keep it with them at all times,” Daily said. “And now we also tell them not to eat snacks, cakes, brownies or other candies offered by their peers because they can be laced with marijuana.”
The other thing Daily recommends parents do to help their children resist the peer pressure to use drugs and/or alcohol, is to create an exit plan. “Have a code word, like ‘hamburger’ that your child can text you, and then you know to call them and tell them they are in trouble and must come home right away,” he said. “That way your kid avoids the social suicide that can happen when you turn down the offer to drink or use drugs. The acceptable excuse is ‘I am in trouble, my dad is mad. I need to go’. ”
You can purchase Jon’s book on the brain science of addition and recovery at Recovery Happens.
The number one ingredient for successful substance abuse prevention is the parent factor. Open communication about your family values is critical. For this reason, it is important to be well-informed, confident and measured in your conversations about drugs and alcohol, and set an expectation with your child that they will not use drugs and alcohol and that if something comes up to talk with you about it. The most important thing a parent can do is get educated about current drug trends, and become a trusted resource to talk about what your child is witnessing in their peer communities, or experiencing themselves. And most importantly, if you discover your child is using drugs or alcohol, even if you believe it is their first use, seek drug education and counseling for both of you. You will learn something about the human condition, your child, and yourself to build trust.
To stay current on drug trends and how to have conversations with youth, go to:
Be the trusted resource for your tech-savvy child. At Core Connectivity, we believe in the power of the individual, and that this truth about the spirit of power and love and sound mind in every human being, must be defended one heart and mind, one family and one community at a time. To that end we teach people how to make a more peaceful version of family in a cyber-powered world based upon open communication and trust.
The way to become a trusted resource for touchy subjects like drugs and sex, is refrain from expressing fearful angry thoughts about what kids are doing. Kids will not bring you their challenges if they know your reaction will be negative, angry or worried; and with texting and cyber tools, it is easy to keep secrets which harbor great risk.
It helps to be mindful that while your children are confronted with very risky choices in their cyber-powered peer communities, the best way to communicate your expectations about conduct involving touchy subjects like drug use, is with hope. Whenever your child messes up, or is struggling with an issue, you can stand in their corner as they experience the consequence of their choices for better or for worse, and encourage your child to learn from their choices to make a better future, and then offer a clean slate so there can be hope of not losing good standing in the family as they learn to do better. To learn more about creating a family culture that features trust and open communication in the parent-child relationship, go to: Fresh Start, or contact Joanna to schedule an appointment.
Prayer of healing for my friend Jon Daily:
Heavenly Father, it is with a grateful heart that I lift up Jon to you, a magnificent son, husband, father, and brother in Christ; I pray that the divine love and wisdom of Jesus guides Jon, his family and his physicians in response to the recent diagnosis of his condition. I pray that this experience of his life journey blesses him and his family with the healing knowledge that nothing can separate them from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). In Jesus’ name, Amen.
About: We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and consultant on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. She is a former technology executive trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, a mother of two grown sons, and an author of books for practical guidance on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture. As a family and technology culture advisor, Joanna has appeared on 103.9FM The Fish, 710AM Keeping Faith in America, 1380AM The Answer, and Examiner.com.