How to Discourage Teen Marijuana Use

Two Parts:Discouraging Teen Marijuana Experimentation as a ParentDiscouraging Continued Marijuana Use by a Teen

Views on marijuana are slowly but surely changing, with the increasing use of the substance for medical purposes and growing efforts to decriminalize recreational usage. However, social acceptance or legalization do not automatically make a substance safe, and marijuana carries a wide range of health risks, especially for teens who are still growing physically and emotionally. Also, despite changes in laws, it is still illegal for a teen to possess or use marijuana recreationally in every U.S. state. Whether you’re trying to prevent a teen from trying marijuana, or working to help him or her quit using, approach the situation with compassion, persistence, and ample information on the risks of marijuana use.

Part 1
Discouraging Teen Marijuana Experimentation as a Parent

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    Start the conversation sooner rather than later. As with most potentially awkward conversation topics you need to broach at some point with your child — alcohol, tobacco, sex, etc. — it is best to initiate the discussion earlier than you think is necessary. While the majority of teens never smoke marijuana, those that do try it may begin even before they are officially “teenagers.” Many experts on the topic advise that you begin talking about the dangers of drug use by the time your child is ten or eleven years old.[1]
    • Don’t give a lecture, though; start a real dialogue with your child. Start by asking questions — “Do you know what marijuana is?” “Have you ever heard kids talking about it in school, or heard people talking about it on TV or movies?” “What do you think marijuana does to someone?”. This can help reduce awkwardness, give you a better idea how to continue approaching the subject, and spur an ongoing conversation with your child.[2]
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    Do your homework. Simply saying “marijuana is bad for you and illegal, so don’t use it” is unlikely to be sufficient. Especially if you are not particularly knowledgeable on the subject, take some time beforehand to research marijuana’s medical, physical, emotional, and social impacts. Don’t barrage your teen with data points, but do have some specific evidence at the ready.[3][4][5]
    • To name but a few examples, you might mention some of the following: marijuana smoke is more hazardous to the lungs than tobacco; smoking marijuana makes you twice as likely to be in a car crash; today’s marijuana is twice as potent as it was twenty years ago; and most teens don't use marijuana.[6]
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    Be clear that it is a “big deal” and it isn’t a “rite of passage.” According to many popular movies, TV shows, songs, and other media, it may seem like every teen smokes marijuana at least sometimes, but none of them face consequences more severe than getting into occasional hijinks. However, the reality is clear: most teens don’t use marijuana, but some of those who do become hooked and suffer negative consequences. Come to the discussion armed with the facts and be prepared to counter popular perceptions.[7]
    • Explain to your teen that it is possible to become addicted to marijuana and teens are more likely to become addicted than adults.[8]
    • You may feel like a hypocrite or be hesitant to take a strong stance if you smoked marijuana as a teen and suffered no significant negative consequences. However, remember that marijuana is now much more potent than even twenty years ago.
    • Instead of concealing or “running away” from your own experience, you can embrace it and use it as a teaching tool.[9] For example, you might tell your child about a time when you felt pressured to use marijuana, how it felt when you used it, and what you did as a result.
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    Prepare together to handle challenging situations and peer pressure. While you may experience some initial resistance from your teen or feel awkward in the attempt, one of the most helpful things you can do during your conversation is engage in situational role playing. Create possible scenarios your child could face and practice making responses that can help counter temptations and peer pressure.[10]
    • For instance, create a scenario at a party in which the teen is being pressured to try marijuana. Practice responses that change the subject, raise practical concerns (like that big test the next day), or simply but clearly express a “no” by the teen.
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    Set and enforce clear expectations and consequences. At some point during the conversation, you as a parent need to “lay down the law.” Clearly state that using marijuana is not acceptable behavior, and clearly establish punishments or other consequences for doing so. Strive to be firm but fair.[11]
    • Make it clear that you won’t “brush off” or “let slide” an error in judgment by your teen, but at the same time that your primary focus is his or her health and well-being. Try to find a balance which will discourage your teen from using marijuana but not discourage him or her from coming to you if he or she does try it.

Part 2
Discouraging Continued Marijuana Use by a Teen

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    Recognize signs of ongoing marijuana use. In movies, the effects of marijuana use are always obvious and usually played for laughs — the glassy red eyes, the slow speech, the “munchies,” etc. These signs do in fact indicate potential marijuana use, but there are also many other physical and emotional signs you should watch for in a teen who might be using.
    • Watch, for instance, for changes in mood or behavior, usually trending toward lethargy, confusion, and sometimes fearfulness. Excessive “goofiness” or changes in sleep patterns can also be indicators.
    • Look for signs of drug paraphernalia in the teen’s possession if you suspect possible marijuana use.
    • Check out this wikiHow article on identifying teen marijuana use for more examples.
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    Identify specific ways in which the person’s marijuana use is causing harm. If you already know that the teen is using marijuana, take some time to account for all the ways in which his or her using has negatively impacted the teen, you, and your relationship. Bring these specific examples to his or her attention when you decide it is time to address the problem.[12]
    • For instance: “I’ve been late to work three times this month because you were too wasted to drop me off.”; "We never play basketball or go running anymore because you have no interest or energy.”; “Your grades have gone from As and Bs to Cs and Ds almost overnight.”
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    Reiterate the dangers of teen marijuana use. No matter how many times a person has been told before, keep repeating yourself about the physical, mental, and emotional (not to mention legal) risks of ongoing marijuana use. Don’t give a lecture, but also don’t hold back from expressing the facts.[13]
    • Mention, for example, that teens who regularly use marijuana have a higher dropout rate, higher instance of anxiety and social disorders, decreased memory and problem solving skills, and a greater likelihood of using other drugs, among many other important bits of evidence at your disposal.[14]
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    Support the user without becoming an enabler. A teen marijuana user who wants to quit, or needs to quit but won’t, requires a lot of love and support. However, some “tough love” may also be in order. Be compassionate without being a pushover.
    • Tell your teen you’ll help, such as by helping him or her to find alternate ways to relax and by listening when your teen feels like smoking marijuana. Don’t however, become an enabler (especially as a parent) by letting disrespectful or disobedient behavior continue.
    • See this wikiHow article on helping someone overcome marijuana addiction with the aid of both compassionate and rigid measures.
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    Help the user get help. Despite claims to the contrary, marijuana is addictive and can be very difficult to give up. At some point, practically every user will want to quit, and he or she will immediately benefit from your efforts to help find the right therapist.[15]
    • Help the teen find a therapist who specializes in drug abuse. Go to sessions with the user if it is permissible and/or helpful. Make it clear that you are there to help for the long haul.
    • Many drug abuse therapists utilize cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for recovering users. CBT helps a user identify his or her stressors, habits, and many other factors of drug abuse, as well as guidance on how to go about quitting and getting on with life.

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Categories: Addictions