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(6) Drugs & Child’s




Truth About Marijuana Being a Gateway Drug


What is self-medication?

There are certain situations where the primary reason that kids start smoking marijuana or using drugs is to make them feel better or as a means to cope-whether to forget family issues or school problems, or to treat depression, anxiety, or disordered thoughts; this is called self-medication. I have heard some kids say they were using marijuana to “dampen the voices.”

It is not unlikely that adolescents resort to drugs to feel happier and to feel less alienated. Children who are traumatized, including those who have been physically, emotionally, and sexually abused, use drugs to numb themselves. They might say, “I don’t want to feel anything,” or “I do not want to remember it.” Drugs can be abused specifically for their effects. Individuals who are depressed tend to use drugs with activating effects, such as cocaine. For those who try to avoid pain or anxiety, alcohol or opioids may be the drug of choice. I have also heard from people abusing heroin that “it just makes me feel nothing.” Although drugs can in fact be helpful initially, usage will eventually take on a life of its own and become a problem itself. When that occurs, drug problems will be on top of the previous problem for which they were initially used. It is therefore very important to look at what originally motivated someone to use drugs. This is one of the goals of recovery. It is not uncommon that when adolescents have become sober, they disclose these traumatic issues. It is important that as parents, you are mindful of these possibilities.


Self-medication - The use of drugs, especially the initial use of drugs, to help one cope with problems or in an attempt to treat anxiety, depression, or disordered thoughts.

Gateway drug - Drug such as cigarettes, alcohol, or cannabis that is used first, before one moves on to more serious drugs like cocaine, heroin, PCP, methamphetamine, etc.

 It is not fair to depict nicotine, alcohol, and cigarettes as less serious, as they do cause significant impairment in your child’s functioning.

 What are gateway drugs?

 Gateway drug is a term that resulted from studies of a segment of a population (epidemiological studies) linking earlier use of cigarettes, alcohol, and cannabis, followed by use of more serious drugs like cocaine, heroin, PCP, methamphetamine, etc. It is not fair to depict nicotine, alcohol, and cigarettes as less serious, as they do cause significant impairment in your child’s functioning. In fact, early cigarette use is associated with later substance use more than half the time. Decreased perception of risk contributes to why kids start using, as more serious problems do not play out until later on. There is a subset of adolescents who, by virtue of the severity of their conduct problems, do start with drugs like cocaine. They are more likely to be involved with serious problems with the law and to start to develop behavior problems at an earlier age. One study suggested that early adolescent substance use prevention programs that focus initially on the gateway drugs may cause long-term prevention of amphetamine use.

Nobody gets addicted to marijuana, right? On the contrary, yes, people do become addicted to marijuana although a number of individuals view cannabis use as a soft drug with no potential for adverse consequences. I have likewise heard from adolescents that “It is not a drug . . . it’s a plant. It is natural. They should legalize it. It is used for pain.” Adults whose primary drug of choice is marijuana are berated during treatment in intensive drug rehabilitation programs or therapeutic communities (TCs), more than those who have used alcohol, cocaine, or heroin. Some argue that marijuana should be legalized.

This opinion, in addition to more potent marijuana and diminished perceived risks, contribute to increased rate of use. A 2007 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental

Health Services Administration revealed an increase to 16% of adults seeking treatment for primary cannabis abuse, up from 12% in 1997. This shows how serious and chronic marijuana use has become. In a 2008 study by Hasin, cannabis withdrawal has been found to occur with clearly defined symptoms. The symptoms included two factors, one characterized by weakness, increased sleeping, and psychomotor retardation, and the second by anxiety, restlessness, depression, and insomnia (difficulty sleeping).

 What are some street names for drugs?

 Street names for drugs evolved as a means for covert communication. Law enforcers should be familiar with these ever-evolving terms to improve familiarity, surveillance, and arrests of drug abusers.

Some are included below:

 Club drugs: vitamin K, jet (ketamine, roofies [Rohypnol], goop GHB), E (MDMA, bumping up: Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) combined with powder cocaine), nubs (peyote) Cocaine: Carrie, Charlie, coke, snow, blow, barbs, basa, base, aspirin, aunt, Aunt Nora, nose candy, marching powder, banana (marijuana or cigarettes laced with cocaine), Bazooka (cocaine, combination of crack and marijuana), sheet rocking (crack and LSD) Hallucinogens: acid, mellow yellow, 100’s, 25’s, battery acid, California sunshine (Lysergic acid diethylamide [LSD]); buttons, cactus (mescaline); Mexican mushrooms (Psilocybin)

Heroin: Big H, China white, Mexican brown, Smack, boy-girl (heroin mixed with cocaine), beast (heroin and LSD)

Cannabis: baby, babysitter, J, bud, blunt, purple haze, pop, sour D, L, Ari, candy sticks (marijuana cigarettes laced with powdered cocaine), atom bomb (marijuana mixed with heroin)

Steroids: juice, pumpers, weight trainers, Georgia home boy (GHB), Arnolds, stackers,

Inhalants: moon gas, air blast, snappers, whiteout (isobutyl nitrite), pearls (amyl nitrite), whippets (nitrous oxide)

Ritalin: Vitamin R

 Street names for drugs evolved as a means for covert communication.

 What makes one end up as an abuser or dependent?

Fortunately, we know who is more likely to end up having significant drug problems. Oftentimes, drug users share the same vulnerabilities with other psychological or mental conditions that exert varying degrees of influence. These include known risk factors including mood problems (risk for drug use is increased by two in individuals with major depression, seven times with bipolar disorder, three times with panic disorder, and five times with schizophrenia). As human beings, we experience the usual ups and downs as we deal with daily demands. Mood problems in these cases are severe depressive episodes that are medical illnesses that cause significant distress and a decrease in the child’s functioning. In the case of the typical bipolar disorder, mood shifts are characterized by a manic episode, a depressive episode, or a combination of both. A manic episode is characterized by a persistent elevated or irritable mood and racing thoughts, increased energy, decreased need for sleep, and involvement in other high-risk behaviors like joyriding, leaving home at indiscriminate hours when safety issues are at hand, indiscriminate or unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners, or even use of drugs.

In this case, it is important to separate conduct problems masquerading as a bipolar equivalent. Youngsters can also have atypical symptoms (mixed symptoms or variable symptom presentation over the course of the day or weeks). Adolescents with bipolar disorder can even have episodic anger outbursts that seem disproportionate to what may have triggered it. Duration of symptoms can be short-lived or in rapid cycles. Youngsters with behavior problems (oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) and learning difficulties are also at increased risk. Although it can be typical and expected of kids to be assertive, these psychiatric conditions go beyond the norm for their age. Defiant behaviors include talking back, arguing a lot, and being disrespectful and disobedient. In addition, severe conduct problems take the form of staying out late, not following curfew, running away, and other more serious behaviors that disregard the rights of others, such as stealing, trespassing, and robbery. In girls with severe conduct problems, conduct can take the form of vicious backbiting and gossiping. Other factors include peer pressure, family discord, and parental drug use. As peers are the single most important social group for youngsters outside of the home, they play a major role in how kids start and maintain their drug use.

High-risk individuals probably have risks with a biologic basis. These include difficulties in planning, attention problems, and problems with reasoning. These make it likely that adolescents will exhibit their anger in inappropriate ways.





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