From Pot To Heroin: Is Your Child an Addict? How Do You Know?

Suzanne Wachtel, LCSW

How does smoking marijuana segway into other drugs? Many people may have or still do smoke pot recreationally and that’s where it ends. Marijuana use is becoming legalized, accepted by peers, seems pretty harmless and is socially acceptable in many circles. So that being said, how does pot start the chain to hard drugs?

Addiction starts slowly, quietly creeping in like an unknown stranger hiding in the shadows. How do we not notice, not clearly see when our child is not just smoking pot occasionally, but instead is getting carried away. From smoking pot with friends, to smoking all day long, to pills, and eventually turning into a hard core drug user with no turning back. How does this happen to our children, sometimes under our very noses? How do you prevent your child from becoming a statistic of drug related deaths plaguing our nation? How do we know if our child will be the one to experiment with drugs and not become an addict? Is there a guide? A certain formula we can follow…? Not really, but we need to talk about it!

From the moment we become parents, we plan how we will be the “best” parents possible. From the best stroller to the right schools, we worry about every step of our children’s’ lives. We try with every good intention to help them grow into happy, productive people with good values and all of the tools to live independent, full lives. We struggle to make the “perfect” parenting choices. Death by drugs was not in that plan!

How can we help other parents coming up in the ranks, figure out a formula to prevent their children from turning into hard core addicts? We need to end this epidemic, now!

I’m not saying that every person who tries drugs will be an addict, but if addiction is in your history or you try opiates, your odds of becoming an addict are very strong.

I am a licensed clinical social worker with a private practice in Boca Raton, Florida and I run two groups weekly at a rehab in Coral Springs. My question to the group each week is “How did you go from smoking pot at 14/15, to shooting heroin? What happened? How did your parents miss the signs? How did they not notice that their child was using life threatening drugs?”

I had no idea that my son had ever tried heroin, and then he died from an overdose at age 27. Crazy! What I have learned since his death is that the majority of addicts stem from opiate users. Yes, the medicine that our trusted doctors give out like candy for injuries or wisdom teeth extractions may have been their first introduction to the deadly opiate family! We need to talk openly about drugs and not hide behind the shame attached to the subject or the stigma that “If your child becomes an addict, it is your fault”, and due to a lack of your involvement or awareness etc….

All I can say is… my son died, I’m an educated, aware parent, and until he died from a heroin overdose, I was clueless to addiction and the signs and dangers! If I can prevent one death… from overdose that will be worth it!

Please pay attention when and if your kids start using marijuana. Not that anyone has died from a marijuana overdose … but if they get into pot, have an addiction gene…. That could be your clue, that there could be possible danger in the future. If marijuana is the first clue, that there may be a future problem… don’t look away, don’t over react, but be aware that addiction issues may be a topic that needs to be addressed… before it’s too late and know that you are not alone.

Suzanne Wachtel, LCSW is a no nonsense, seasoned psychotherapist.
She has a private practice in Boca Raton, Florida and
devotes much of her time to helping those struggling with addicted
loved ones and the loss of family members to drugs. She arms us
with tools to cope and strategies to handle the pain that goes hand
in hand with loving an addict. She is kind, insightful and very wise.
Suzanne lost her own son to a heroin overdose 3 years ago. Her
goal is to not let it identify her but instead, to take the experience
and use it to teach and help others. Life is not what happens to
us … It’s how we handle it that matters. Through individual and
groups, she helps us heal.
Suzanne can be reached at