Don’t Fear the Unknown: Three Things You Should Know about Teens and Marijuana
All the buzz around marijuana, especially it’s abuse, visibility in popular culture, and decriminalization, can make it difficult to find cut and dry information on it. Marijuana use among teens can be particularly hairy as parents feel desperate for information and teens become willing to share less with their parents. Here are three facts about marijuana use among teens everyone should know, no matter how old you are.
- Marijuana use and abuse is decreasing. As state-level decriminalization and legalization efforts pick up speed, researchers from St Louis’ Washington University recently published a study examining responses from more than 200,000 adolescents from all 50 states about their drug use. Researchers were surprised to find that in the last ten years the rate of teens’ reported use and abuse of marijuana has gone down by approximately two percentage points. While this small shift may seem insignificant, a decrease of any kind is far from the explosive epidemic some opponents were concerned would follow the widespread decriminalization of marijuana.
- Curiosity is natural. If you have a teen at home, you already know what a stimulating time these years are for them. As they begin to see friends acting out and experimenting with drugs and alcohol, it is natural for a developing mind to feel curious. Young people want to try new things. Nurture this curiosity in positive ways by taking the time to talk with your teen about what they notice and what their thoughts are. By opening the lines of communication you’ll have a stronger relationship and are more likely to be seen as an ally who can help your teen make good choices, instead of an enforcer who will harshly punish mistakes.
- Marijuana use is preventable. One explanation for the small decrease in marijuana use and abuse is that kids’ parents and communities are acting to prevent drug use before it starts. Behavioral problems like acting out in school and fighting with other children can be an indicator of psychological issues or problems at home. Notice these changes and help connect children to healthy support systems and outlets like psychotherapy and extra-curricular activities, before kids turn to drug use. In this way, we have the power to prevent a lifetime of difficulty and even addiction, if we are able to detect and treat the signs of social or psychological problems when they first appear.
It’s easy for parents to feel helpless when put up against the constant barrage of glorified drug use in today’s media environment. But by building an authentic relationship with your child, airing out their concerns, and acting on the signs you see, there’s no reason to expect your child to turn to drugs like marijuana or alcohol when they encounter difficult life experiences.
Feeling nervous about broaching the subject of drug use with your child? It’s always the right time to start the conversation; try fixing your teen’s favorite meal for dinner tonight and opening the floor for their thoughts and questions over the main course.