Advice for parents from a pro
“Cunning, baffling, powerful” is how Alcoholics Anonymous literature describes alcohol, and how Greenfield therapist Douglas Grote describes addiction in general
And he has some advice for parents faced with that terrible threat.
Drug use and the potential for addiction or death isn’t limited to the formative years, but it is those formative years when parents have the most control over their children’s lives.
Setting a good example, clear expectations and understanding the problem are Grote’s recommendations for parents.
“There’s a lot of parents around here who smoke pot, you know, and a lot of their kids end up serious addicts,” Grote said, adding, in fairness, that the correlation is not absolute.
Grote is a Greenfield social worker and therapist who sees a full range of clients out of his Franklin Street office but entered the field due to his interest in addiction — he is in recovery himself — and took the rare extra step of attaining both the licensed independent social worker and addiction therapist certifications to pursue his vocation.
Taking it seriously is the next step, for parents and for drug abusers.
“One of the biggest problems is people don’t take it seriously; they don’t understand the depth of their problems and parents don’t understand,” Grote said.
Humans are equipped with a variety of chemical systems set up to facilitate things like the fight or flight response, relationships and other survival mechanisms.
Introducing other chemicals to the mix interferes with those systems.
Grote uses the need for shelter as an example.
If you’re outdoors on a cold day you will naturally want to stop being cold, and act accordingly. If instead you were to drink a pint of schnapps, you might not feel the cold anymore, but you might also freeze to death.
“You’re set up to survive, so when you take any of these drugs what you’re doing is interfering with your own survival, moderately or severely,” he said.
Spotting opioid abuse can be harder for parents than alcohol or marijuana use. Marijuana smells, alcohol smells and causes obvious symptoms like slurred speech and loss of coordination.
Warning signs of opioid abuse are typically more subtle until the problem is well advanced. Constricted pupils or “nodding out,” falling asleep immediately after a dose, are signs of recent opioid use. Once a user becomes chemically dependent, signs include symptoms of withdrawal — unexplained sickness — insomnia, mood changes.
Many of the warning signs have to do with the mechanics of opioid abuse: scraps of cotton are used to filter heroin when drawing it into a needle for injection; metal spoons are a common choice for cooking the powder into liquid; tinfoil with burn residue may have been used to smoke heroin or pills.
Setting clear rules and consequences and being proactive can have the desired effect. Grote recommends parents test their children if they suspect drug use.
Drug testing your kid might not feel like a reasonable thing to do, but it will answer a question, and if the child isn’t using, it will give them a disincentive to experiment and an excuse not to if they’re looking for one in the face of peer pressure.
Established consequences — grounding, loss of phone or car, etc. — will also be more helpful than flying off the handle.
Grote advises parents to seek professional help if they know or suspect their child has a problem.
“If you think your kid has strep throat, what do you do? You take them to a doctor to get treated,” Grote said.
Therapy should be covered by insurance, although thanks to a peculiarity of the state licensing system, certified addiction therapists must also be licensed as independent social workers — LICSW, a separate educational track — in order to bill insurance.
Therapists can be found under the “psychotherapists” listing in the phone book. The publication Psychology Today hosts a list of therapists and psychologists by area, with lists of insurers accepted and other self-reported information, online at:
Home urine testing kits and kits for send-away laboratory hair tests can be found online or in many drug, department and discount stores.