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How to Talk to Your Teen About Marijuana

Surrounding states have legalized marijuana in recent years. There's a popular belief that marijuana poses no danger and is now acceptable in our society. Some of my patients have voiced their concerns about it to me recently. I came across a couple of articles focused on talking to teens about marijuana and wanted to pass this information on to you. Educating our teens and providing support can reduce the likelihood that they will abuse cannabis, or try any other dangerous substance. This is not a topic where a one-time conversation will do. This is a conversation that needs to be repeated especially during the pre-teen and teenage years. Because the brain does not fully mature until the age of 25, young people are more likely to engage in risky behavior, including cannabis use. Cannabis use in adolescence, when the brain is undergoing critical development, may have neurotoxic effects. Research reveals that cannabis use in teens affects:

  • Cognition and IQ
  • Working memory
  • Spatial memory
  • Growth
  • Cortisol production and secretion patterns
  • Neurotransmitter secretion patterns
  • Mood and motivation
  • Cancer risk
  • Propensity to try other drugs

Help your teen(s) sort fact from fiction: Start early. You want your message to be there ahead of the other messages they are going to be getting. Begin the conversation by asking, “Okay, so tell me what you know about marijuana”. Let your child talk, uninterrupted, until they tell you all they know. If some of their information is incorrect, before supplying them with the correct information, ask them the following questions:

  • "I'm curious how you got that idea about marijuana?"
  • "I hear you saying that marijuana isn't that bad for you because John said it's legal, but where do you think he's getting that information?"
  • "I know a lot of people think that marijuana isn't as bad for you as alcohol but there's a bit more to it than that. I think we should talk about it."

Let your kids know you are with them every step of the way:
What do I do if I am tempted?

  • Make it very clear to your kids that you are always open to talking to them at a moment's notice if they feel pressured or tempted to say 'yes' to marijuana.
  • Let them know that if they are at a party or a friend's house and marijuana is present, they can call you to be picked up regardless of the time or day.
  • Also, while you may think your child knows how you feel about using marijuana, make sure to express what your expectations are around substance use while they are teenagers.
  • You can tell your child, "We expect you not to use any substances because we know how harmful they can be to your health. If something comes up and you need help, we're here for you no matter what."

Suggested responses to temptation:

  • "Nah, I'm trying to quit." (then change the subject)
  • "My parents can smell that stuff a mile away. They'd kill me, dude."
  • "I've got so much to do tomorrow (sports event, studying, musical show). Can't do it."

Talking to your child about marijuana use doesn’t have to be a scary or intimidating experience. Greater communication can create a stronger bond between parent and child; one that brings mutual trust and respect.

References: Hiatt K. Talking to Teens About Marijuana--9 Dos and Dont's. US News & World Report Health. Accessibility verified 9/7/2016
Marijuana: Facts Parents Need to Know. NIH: National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessibility verified 9/6/2016

Posted by Karole Beck at 11/18/2016 9:20:00 PM
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