11-year-old’s Marijuana Arrest Sparks Debate Among Parents

HUNTINGTON (WCHS, SEAN DELANCEY)– An 11-year-old who police said was caught with marijuana at Central City Elementary in Huntington early Wednesday has sparked debate among parents over whether kids that young could really be doing drugs.

Recovering addict Kenny Sergent at Recovery Point of Huntington said it happened to him.

“I started about 10, 11 years old smoking marijuana,” Sergent said.

Sergent is a month away from graduating at Recovery Point, now clean from years of marijuana, alcohol and heroin abuse he said led to prison as a teenager.

“Growing up, the only thing it’s going to bring a person that young is prison or dying,” Sergent said.

Sergent has been far from the only person starting young, said addiction expert and substance abuse counselor Shawn Cade, who operates out of Oasis behavioral health services in Barboursville.

“I’ve seen it as early as 6,” Cade said.

Cade said early drinkers are much more likely to be alcoholics than those who wait until 21 to drink, but there isn’t nearly as much research on pot.

Early substance abuse opens the door to heavier substances later in life, he said.

“I’m a firm believer in intervention early. I do not believe that marijuana is a safe drug. It is not benign,” Cade said.

Cade said most kids who start using controlled substances start around 15 or 16, and there are signs parents can identify such as moodiness, grades dropping, a change in friends and withdrawal.

“They will avoid contact with you. They will avoid conversation about it. A child who is not using will not necessarily avoid conversation about it,” he said.

Cade said it’s up to parents or authority figures to get engaged, stay engaged, and, if necessary, enter counseling early.

Sergent said he wished he would have listened to anti-drug advice earlier in life.

“I just wish I could’ve learned when I was younger that I was on the wrong path, but, you know, I can’t take my past back,” Sergent said.

The 11-year-old Central City student was charged with possession of a controlled substance.

Police were alerted originally by a report that a fifth grade student had a gun at the school. The gun turned out to be a CO2-powered BB gun similar to a revolver, and police said the 10-year-old who had it has been charged with possessing a firearm on school property.

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