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Tough Love for Pot Smoking Teens

No mother or father wants to believe that their teenage son or daughter is using drugs. The fact is that even the most careful parent can't always compete with peer pressure. Adolescents who are eager to fit in with the popular crowd may end up smoking pot because their peers do it or they just want to experiment.

If you suspect that your adolescent is using pot or may be tempted to do so, you need to take some important steps:

1. The first stage of dealing with this issue involves trying to understand what your adolescent is actually experiencing by engaging her in a helpful dialogue. Hold back on your warnings and threats. Instead, approach your youngster as the expert and ask for a greater understanding by asking questions such as: How much does it cost these days? I understand that the current weed is much stronger than what was around in my day …is that true? Is it easy to get pot? What different types of pot are out there now? What is it like when you get high? Why do you like to get high? What are the benefits to you?

2. Once you have a better understanding of the reasons for drug use and the patterns of use, you should express your displeasure in the following ways:
  • It is illegal. Your adolescent needs to be reminded that she can be arrested, and while not much happens to first time offenders, still it's no fun to end up on probation and to have to do community service.
  • Employers now routinely drug test all applicants. Since traces of pot remain in the system for about a month and it is not as easy to hide as commonly thought, your adolescent may be very disappointed when she gets fired from her local, part-time job because of a positive drug screen.
  • It impairs driving skills. If your adolescent has her license, the same rule about drinking and not driving apply to smoking pot and driving. The research is very clear that it delays reaction times and, therefore, increases the risk of accidents. 
  • You do not want illegal substances in your home, nor do you want your adolescent or her friends smoking pot in your home. It makes parents look bad and can get them arrested (contributing to the delinquency of a minor).

3. Express your disapproval of your teen’s use of pot in a calm, firm manner, without hysterics or unreasonable threats. You understand you can’t control her behavior, that if she chooses to smoke pot, you can't really stop her, but you will set some firm rules about this. For instance, if you suspect she is breaking the rule by bringing marijuana into the house, she is to understand that her right to privacy in her room will be suspended, that periodic room searches will take place, and backpacks will be searched.

4. If your teen denies using marijuana, but you doubt that she is telling you the truth, you can discreetly order a home drug test kit online. It can take up to 5 weeks for pot to get out of a person’s system, so it can easily be detected in the urine. While your adolescent is likely to balk at the idea of being drug tested by you, explain to her in a loving yet firm way that this is a new house rule. There is the very real possibility that she may refuse to take the test, but if you tell her that the only other option is taking her to the hospital to get tested, she is more likely to agree to taking the home drug test.

5. Find those occasional moments when your adolescent is actually in the mood to talk about drug use. Typically, driving somewhere together is one of the best times, which also implies that it is better to have only one parent involved in the conversation so it doesn't feel like a 2-on-1 confrontation.

6. Encourage your adolescent to get involved in something positive, such as special groups, sports, band and other activities that can prevent her from being bored and susceptible to negative influences.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

7. For some adolescents, smoking pot is purely a social activity, not unlike having a pizza with their close friends when they are hanging out on a weekend night. But sometimes, the kids your teenager gets high with are not her regular peer group – and it's important to know if she's beginning to be influenced by some other adolescents that may be more of a fringe group who don't appear to share the values you and your adolescent have discussed as important. Why is she distancing herself from her usual social group? Are they "not cool" because they don't get high? Has her old group moved beyond her in some way? How much of the marijuana use is based on filling some personal need? Answers to these questions will be crucial in dealing with your child’s drug use.

8. If you discover that your adolescent is using pot, alert her school about her drug use so that teachers and administrators can be on the lookout for any indicators that she is getting high before class or obtaining the drug from other classmates.

9. If you discover that your adolescent is not smoking pot, that doesn't mean that she isn't still vulnerable. Take safeguards (e.g., find out who her friends are, who she is hanging around, where she is going, etc.).

10. Is your teen aware of the ways in which pot negatively impacts users? For instance, because it tends to create a sense of apathy (the "What, me worry?" syndrome), the negative effects of marijuana are often subtle and easy to miss. Research reveals that adolescents who use marijuana on some degree of a regular basis usually get their driver's license significantly later than non-users. This reflects the tendency to put things off and not care as much about things that are usually important. The adolescent that remains focused on her schoolwork, after school activities, and other interests, is clearly at less risk than the adolescent that starts letting things slip.

11. Lead by example. If you are abusing alcohol or smoking pot yourself, don't expect your adolescent to take you seriously when you lecture her about the evils of doing drugs.

12. Let your adolescent know that you are always available if she needs to talk. If you open the lines of communication, she will feel more comfortable with revealing that she is being pressured to smoke marijuana or has tried it. Yelling and scolding will make your adolescent less likely to share things.

13. One of the most frequent driving forces behind abuse of marijuana is when it is a form of self-medication. This is when adolescents who have undiagnosed ADHD use marijuana to calm down, or the depressed youngster smokes pot to shut off negative thoughts and feelings. This group of users is more likely to smoke alone as well as with friends, and that's an important distinction to make. If there is an underlying problem driving the pot smoking, it is important to identify that and encourage getting help for that problem.

14. One good question to ask is, "How would you know when pot smoking not a good thing to do?" This is easily asked when your adolescent is quick to point out she is “not a drug addict” like so and so who's always stoned. This question will touch on how often she actually uses marijuana and under what circumstances. It clarifies her ability to acknowledge that there are risks of abuse – and can she tell the difference? For instance, she may not be aware that chronic users (defined as those who smoke daily for a month or more) typically will become depressed when they stop using.

15. Look for signs that “use” is turning into “abuse.” Is your youngster's behavior or personality changing in negative ways? If you begin to believe that your adolescent is developing a serious addiction, then you can take much stronger steps (e.g., involving the police, requiring routine drug testing, and insisting upon individual and family counseling with a specialist in substance abuse).


==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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