Are empty Funyuns packets indicative of child abuse?

13 06 2011

Drug addiction is notoriously difficult to treat. It’s a frustrating problem for the person trying to get help, and for the professionals trying to provide that help. Twelve step programs are generally the most accepted, along with intensive rehab and inpatient treatment.

The only thing that we know really doesn’t work is being featured on a VH1 reality show. Who knew?

I shouldn’t have to worry all that much about this. I’m not a drug counselor. I don’t work in drug treatment. In the world of prevention, families with drug problems or mental health issues are supposed to be sent to “intensive preventive.” This involves more frequent home visits, and a case worker in addition to a social worker, to provide the level of care the families need.

Surprise surprise, funding is short. Meaning we are increasingly getting sent cases that are not strictly appropriate for our services.

I guess they try to keep the really, really intense cases where they belong. For the most part, we don’t get clients who use hard drugs. Crack is not a big part of my professional life. (Or my personal life, don’t worry.) But, it would seem, marijuana follows me everywhere I go. (At work, I mean. Settle down.)

Drug tests are a regular part of an ACS investigation. I’m not usually one to get all up in arms about such things, but it is a bit odd. Especially when the reason a case was called in has nothing to do with drug use. A parent using excessive corporal punishment, or a case of inadequate guardianship could be influenced by drug use, but it seems wrong to jump to conclusions and imply that parents have to go along with a drug test, when they actually have the right to refuse.

Not surprisingly, considering how drug tests work (marijuana stays in a person’s system for up to thirty days, cocaine for about forty eight hours) test frequently come up positive for marijuana. And I’m frequently asked to deal with this.

A drug problem is difficult to treat when the person in question admits that they have a problem and need help. When the person in question does not admit this, and says that they just smoke weed every so often, to relax, to have a good time, to celebrate a special event, it’s an uphill battle.

When the worker assigned to provide help, and convince this person that there is, in fact, a problem, does not believe that there’s a problem? We’re beyond uphill battle. It’s uphill, wearing roller skates and ankle weights, being chased back down by a pack of wolves.

Most people who get busted for marijuana use, whether they be parents or teens, admit to using it occasionally. Sometimes I suspect that it’s more often. There was one teenage boy I worked with who I don’t think I ever saw not high. He had gone beyond the fun, let’s-watch-Adult-Swim-and-eat-Cheetos high to the this-is-just-who-I-am high. I thought he had a problem, and that he needed help.

But most of the positive screenings we get a report on are low levels. People admit to smoking because it was someone’s birthday, or smoking once a month.

They admit that to me, anyway. In court, and to ACS, they usually admit to having been in a smoky room. Or they admit to eating a poppy seed bagel, because a lot of people saw that one episode of Seinfeld and got a little confused.

It’s so strange to me that so many workers, social workers, protective workers, judges, and lawyers, will act like a positive marijuana test is the end of the world. I don’t think it’s a good thing. But it’s so easy to pick up on, and so easy to say it needs to be addressed, that I think it clouds our judgment.

Sometimes I feel like I’m being sucked back into the 1950s and Reefer Madness. “She’s been smoking marijuana, SJ. What if she leaves her kids unsupervised because she goes out to buy more? What if she gets stoned and ignores them? They could get hurt!”

These things could happen. They could also happen if a parent went out for a pack of cigarettes, or a Mountain Dew. She could ignore her kids for lots of reasons. Good book, Halo tournament, a few beers…I have one client whose use of  pills concerns me greatly. But my worries aren’t heard by the court, because she has a valid prescription.

How many adults have never smoked weed, not even once? Most people I know at least went through a phase where it was a bit of a regular thing. Some of us even inherited our parents’ old Cheech and Chong albums. (I’ll be honest, they really hold up.)

I’m not saying that it’s the best way to deal with one’s stress. It’s not the most effective coping strategy, nor is it the most mature method of dealing with one’s problems. We all know that people going through hard, stressful times ought to let the tension out by talking with a trusted loved one, exercising, writing a sad poem in their journals…you know, like we all do.

Oh, wait.

Yes, excessive marijuana usage concerns me. If someone can’t put the pipe down long enough to let a CPS worker complete a home visit, then I’m concerned about what’s going on. But if the children are taken care of, and this is the only concern? It seems like we’re looking for and creating problems.

And I don’t think we need to be doing that just yet.

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14 responses

13 06 2011
Mona

“She was living in a single room with three other individuals. One of them was a male, and the other two…well the other two were females. God only knows what they were up to in there. Furthermore, Susan, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to learn that all four of them habitually smoked marijuana cigarettes. REEFERS!”

Couldn’t help it.

13 06 2011
socialjerk

It’s like you’re in my head :)

13 06 2011
Vetnita in MN

As the only human,I know of, that has never smoked marijuana, I think it is so funny when my once partier friends start sounding like right wingers about pot when it comes to marijuana in politics or their kids. I still have photos…. Marijuana is a pain killer. It doesn’t make you crazy, violent, or a bad person. It takes the pain, inside or out, away and helps you to carry on. However, pain can be a good thing. Pain can hwlp make you change your life for the better or to help make you make decisions that will help you in the long term. Teenagers are in more pain than most people and are the people who most need a clear head to make some good decisions. Also, stoners do not pay enough attention to small children, I have some baddddd stories to share.

13 06 2011
socialjerk

It is funny, so many people can allow themselves to have a wild phase, but judge others so harshly for doing the same. I think we know our own reasoning and logic behind our decisions, so when we see others doing similar things, but in different circumstances, we think it doesn’t make sense.

I think you’re definitely right about marijuana (and alcohol or other drugs) being used to numb pain and to self medicate. And I have seen people neglect their children in favor of drug use. Most often prescription drugs, but marijuana, crack, alcohol, and other drugs as well.

But I think that sometimes we need to allow for some occasional enjoyment. I babysat all through college, and there were certainly times that I would have failed a drug test. I certainly never cared for a child while high, and smoking a week or two before being around a child didn’t affect my ability to be present for that child one way or another. A positive drug test does not mean that someone is a stoner. Though I recognize that this is my view of marijuana, which not everbody shares.

Thanks for reading!

13 06 2011
Simply Social Work

I think your right, working with cannabis smokers is hard to do. Although the smoking is not the primary concern the knock on effects over time can be significant if their focus becomes towards smoking and not the care of their child. I have seen bright intelligent children fall behind in the schooling because their parents could not get up. Then make themselves sick so as to stay at home to care for their parent because they are scared of what may happen to them.

But lets be fair the people we work with the drug misuse is usually a factor to a bigger picture. There are many safe ways to use drugs without any impact on children.

I have really enjoyed this blog entry and recognise the difficulty other people’s perceptions of drug misuse may cause some people to see the real issue behind the misuse.

16 06 2011
socialjerk

I feel the same way. There’s only so much work I feel I can do, especially with teens who have a problem with marijuana, on getting them to just stop. But if we address why they’re smoking, in terms of what else is going on in their lives, it tends to be more successful.

And thanks :)

13 06 2011
Fi

Yes, totally agree. MISuse is the problem. Make it legal I say. MISusers of legal substances create child protection issues as much as users of harder drugs.

Some people are alcoholics, and some people will be reeferholics. Most of us though can handle it once in a while.

16 06 2011
socialjerk

I really agree. Like I said, my main concern right now is a woman misusing perfectly legal prescription drugs. The mom who got busted for smoking weed on her birthday, while her children were with their grandparents for the weekend? I’m really not worried about her. I don’t see why it’s different from her getting drunk to celebrate, other than (what I feel are) archaic laws.

13 06 2011
SW24/7

I whole-heartedly agree – I often catch myself just as I’m about to say things like, “Her drop was ONLY positive for pot”. I seriously want to say – “Can we move on to someone who is actually putting her kids at risk?” And this coming from someone who was 30 before trying her first and only bowl. ;)

16 06 2011
socialjerk

I ALWAYS find myself saying, “Was it just weed?” I follow it up and correct myself, but…really. Given everything else we see, it’s just weed.

14 06 2011
sarahk

This makes me glad I work under a harm reduction model. We generally don’t care if people smoke pot. I will talk to someone about how it’s affecting their budget, their housing, their relationships, etc. Even with “hard” drugs like crack I tend to take the same approach if the person doesn’t feel they have a problem.

I just started at a new job and it’s not nearly as progressive. It’s depressing to hear caseworkers and CASACs lecture clients about how drugs are not good for them. Is this news to anyone? Fatty food, and excessive coffee intake, and sleep deprivation aren’t good for you either but most of us do that anyway. If only someone had told me Snickers were unhealthy…

16 06 2011
socialjerk

I’ve heard good things from workers who work under harm reduction, but I’ve never worked with that myself. Our problem is that this is what the courts are referring to us.

I love when people are kind enough to point out those really obvious things. Smoking is bad for you?! And chips to?! What the hell! Thank you, angel of health :)

15 06 2011
Carlos

Reminds me of a social work workshop I assisted that was focused on addiction. The speaker gave one anecdote where a mother was concerned about her son’s pot use… Which consisted of smoking once every few months and had no negative effects on the boy’s life. I blame the government for demonizing cannabis. I think that, at the least, it shouldn’t be a criminal offense.

16 06 2011
socialjerk

I agree it needs to be legalized, or at least decriminalized. Not that it can’t have negative affects, but I can’t think of any problems it causes that can’t be caused by alcohol or cigarettes.

The most important thing is definitely how this is affecting a person’s life. Things aren’t going to be perfect in every family. If this is the one issue, and it’s not really presenting a problem, I feel like there are so many other people who need and want our help that we can move on to.

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