Marijuana, What’s The Big Deal?

Marijuana, What’s The Big Deal?

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I recently discovered that my son is using marijuana.  He smoked it almost every day until I found out and threw away his stuff.  When I spoke to him he said he smoked because he liked it, that it should be legal and that he will continue smoking no matter what I say. He doesn’t see what the big deal with marijuana is.  What should I say to him?

 

Answers

Johanna Bos's picture

Johanna Bos, LCSW, CASAC: It is not surprising that most teenagers view marijuana use the same way they view social drinking; perfectly harmless, if done correctly.

The fact that marijuana is portrayed in the media as a fun loving, benign drug, whose only side effects are happy, sleepy and hungry doesn’t help parents who are trying to send the message that recreational drug use of any kind is not good or safe.

Marijuana use has steadily increased over the past decade, largely in part to its’ legality in several states and the accessibility to teenagers nationwide. Most teenagers will tell you that it is easier to obtain marijuana than beer in most areas. There is no ID required for purchase therefore even early adolescents can buy marijuana to get high.

While marijuana in itself is not a lethal drug, the issue is not just the physical effects of the drug, it is the behavior that goes along with getting high and using marijuana on a regular basis.

When talking to your child about why marijuana use can be dangerous, here are some points to remember:

* Don’t try using scare tactics (marijuana smoking will lead to hardcore drugs is a myth, there is no such thing as a “gateway “drug) -- they don’t work. Be honest about marijuana, let your child know that you understand it is readily available and that lots of people use it for legitimate medical purposes, but that is true for many abused drugs (prescription pain medications). It doesn’t make using it OK, just because it’s legal in some states.

* Let your child know that it isn’t just the marijuana that you are concerned about, it is the risks that go along with it. For instance, who are they buying it from? Have they even thought about the legal consequences of their marijuana use? How are they sure nothing else is added to the marijuana? Explain the dangers of being unknowingly drugged with another substance and how that can be potentially life threatening.

* Ask your child one basic question: What does marijuana do for you that you can’t feel while sober? If your child responds saying something like,” it helps me relax” ask them why they feel they can’t relax without it. Most people use a substance to “get away” from a particular feeling -- whether that is anxiety, stress, fear, anger.

* Help your child understand that marijuana won’t fix these feelings, only prolong them for a bit and add more problems to their plate.

* It is important to provide another outlet if you are going to prohibit marijuana smoking as a viable option. Rule of thumb: You can’t take something away without putting something else as a replacement. OK, so you tell your child that you will not accept them smoking marijuana as a means to relax or cope with their issues. What can they do? Make sure you have other ideas or solutions to offer them.

* Give him the facts and ask him what he knows about marijuana, what he has read, heard, etc.

* Help your child understand that using drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with life leads to bigger problems down the road -- problems don’t get smaller in life, only you get stronger and find other ways to deal with them. Now is the time for them to learn.

While each teenager and family has its own ethics and values regarding marijuana use, one thing I think most parents can agree upon is they want their child to be safe, healthy and smart. Talking to your child about marijuana use and its effects is one way to help them become wel- educated and insightful adults.

Helpful Links:

Drug Guide: Marijuana

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