Lately I have been receiving a lot of calls from parents about their teens using marijuana. Teenagers have always experimented with marijuana, but lately something is different. The teens who are coming in are complaining that they literally cannot quit using. Marijuana has a reputation for being non-addictive, so why all of a sudden are there teens who feel addicted?
The addictive part of marijuana is called “THC.” The potency of THC in marijuana in the US has more than doubled since the 1990s. So, while marijuana possibly was not as addictive in the past, it is now.
The teens I have been working with say they have difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and a general feeling of discomfort if they stop using. It is also so deeply ingrained psychologically that they have a hard time changing. They have made friends around using marijuana, developed rituals and routines, and have become accustomed to lying.
Therapy is a good format to confront marijuana addiction. It is really important for the teen to feel like someone understands how difficult it is to quit using. A lot of people say things like, ‘Marijuana isn’t addictive, so just stop using it.’ Therapy is also always helpful to the teen’s parents in making changes at home that support sobriety.
If your teen is smoking marijuana, it is really important for you to confront them. Don’t look the other way. No matter what your teenager tells you, it is easy to graduate to more intense drugs. Your teenager is also associating with people that you probably wouldn’t like. Your teen is likely not being entirely honest with you about how frequently they use, or how much. Marijuana is a deeper problem than people like to think.
When you talk with them about it, be gentle and loving. However, if you set boundaries around drug use, make sure you stick with them. Do something to hold your teenager accountable such as promising to randomly drug test, or take them to counseling. Most importantly, do not be swayed by their logical arguments about why marijuana isn’t bad for them. The newest scientific research coming out says otherwise.
Chances are if your teenager is using marijuana there are some noticeable signs. Perhaps you’ve attributed these signs to them being older. Your teen may be more argumentative, secretive, trying to have more independence, seems to lack money, is worried about money, often appears lazy, has bloodshot eyes more often than they used to, and eats a greatly increased amount of junk food in one sitting. These symptoms don’t necessarily indicate marijuana use, but they certainly warrant you either asking or testing your child. By the way, if your adolescent refuses a drug test, definitely be suspicious something is up.
It takes a lot of nerve, and love to confront your teenager on drug use. It’s a hard thing to do because if they’re using, certainly part of you doesn’t want to know that. They are very likely to be offended you are asking, whether they use or not. It’s almost never an easy discussion, but it’s one of those things that has to be done from time to time. Whoever said parenting is the best thing in life was generally right, but should have included the caveat that it’s also one of the most difficult things in life.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman MS, MFT