Even though the number of teens smoking marijuana has dropped since the 1990s, smoking marijuana is still a prevalent and dangerous problem for teens. Parents, by having a well-organized toolkit of information and resources, you can talk to your teen about marijuana and can ensure that they are one of the smart teens who never lights up or takes a puff in the first place.
Talking to Your Teen about Marijuana
In 2012, recreational marijuana smoking became legal in Colorado and Washington; other states have also since legalized it. The result of legalization lends to the narrative that smoking marijuana is okay. Those who support legalizing marijuana point out that marijuana is not as dangerous as other drugs, which somehow makes it okay. Some argue that the drug is not dangerous at all.
This information is what your teen hears, and unless you talk to your teen about marijuana, that is all that they hear. You have the power to influence your teen. In fact, according to a study conducted by Columbia University, teens that choose to be drug free say that their parents are the number one influencers in that decision. Other studies show that:
· Parents who talk to their children about using drugs are less likely to use drugs
· Teens who have regular family meals are less likely to ever smoke, drink, or use illegal drugs
When you do talk to your teen about smoking pot, talk to them about the facts.
Side Effects of Smoking Marijuana
Marijuana’s Effects on Your Teen’s Mental Health
Your parent prevention toolkit should be packed with information that combats and contradicts the things people who support marijuana legalization and usage say. Again, your teen hears that marijuana isn’t addictive or doesn’t lead to traffic accidents or doesn’t have long-term side effects; however, studies reveal otherwise:
· Teen brains aren’t finished developing until the mid 20s and sometimes-early 30s; early exposure to marijuana could change brain development.
· Teens who started smoking before age 16 did worse on cognitive tests of brain function in areas related to planning, abstract thinking, understanding rules, and inhibiting inappropriate responses.
· The negative impacts on memory and learning can last days or weeks and can make learning new information, completing tasks, or stringing together sequential information challenging.
· Marijuana negatively impacts learning and memory and is shown to lead to decreased IQ among teens who regularly smoke.
· Roughly one in six who start smoking marijuana at an earlier age are more likely to become addicted.
How Marijuana Affects Your Teen Physically
As though the short and long-term damages to mental health aren’t enough, there are other outcomes directly related to smoking marijuana that can shorten your teen’s lifespan. For example:
· Marijuana really does make users bigger threats on the road as it leads to impaired judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time.
· Marijuana use increases the risk of cardiorespiratory disease and testicular cancer.
The Real Facts about Today’s Marijuana
Today’s Marijuana is Stronger and More Dangerous
Your teen might be curious to know why the facts about marijuana have seemingly changed. The reality is that today’s marijuana is stronger and more likely to be laced with synthetic chemicals that mimic marijuana’s effects but that are infinitely more dangerous and that are potentially deadly.
· THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marujuana) was 1.3% in 1978; in 2013, it was on average 15% and sometimes over 30%.
· Marijuana edibles like cookies and chocolate are usually 10 times stronger than what kids smoke.
· K2 and Spice, which are labeled as not being for human consumption, are often laced into marijuana mixtures.
· Effects of synthetic chemicals, which often change from batch-to-batch include rapid heart rate, vomiting, violent behavior, and suicidal thoughts
The reality is that marijuana is addictive; next to alcohol, marijuana is the leading cause of substance dependence. A 2013 study showed that marijuana use accounted for 4.2 million of the 6.9 million dependent upon or using an illicit drug.
That is a key message to drive home to your teen: marijuana is still illegal in most states, so even if the very real potential health consequences don’t seem to influence your teen, remind them that illegal drug usage can send them to jail.
Signs of Marijuana Use in Teens
In addition to being proactive about talking to your teen about smoking marijuana, it is useful to be aware of potential behavioral changes in your teen or their friends that indicate they are doing drugs. Signs include:
· Changes in mood, interest in former hobbies, academic performance, sleeping patterns, and friends or other once-steady relationships.
· Red eyes, dizziness or poor coordination, giddiness, and poor memory
· Odor on clothes or in car / bedroom.
Keep in mind that marijuana concentrates (butane hash oil) can used (with no telltale odor) in vaporizing pens now popular among many young people.
When it comes to preventing teen marijuana use, the best tool in your parental kit is communication. Spend quality time with your teen. Talk to them. Show a genuine interest in their lives. They listen. If your job to make sure that what they are listening to you is you and not someone else.
Having a well-stocked toolkit of facts and information related to smoking marijuana and being willing to communicate are things parents need to keep their teens safe from drugs. The Walton County Prevention Coalition (WCPC) is dedicated to supporting parents in helping teens make good decisions. Visit the WCPC website for additional resources useful for ensuring your teen never inhales (not even once).