Teens and pot, not good. Now with the legalization of pot here in Massachusetts, teens have found new ammunition to fuel their rationalizations for why it is OK to smoke pot. Here is the obvious; “Hey it’s legal, so that must mean there is nothing really wrong with it.” Other favorites include; "I can think better; I can drive better; it relaxes me so I can concentrate better on my homework; it helps me sleep.”
Adolescence is all about new experiences and experimentation. It is a cruel law of nature that tempts teens to try all sorts of new things, just at a time in their lives when their brains are engaging in a major growth spurt.
Typically when a teen looks or acts drunk, you can bet that they are drunk! Alcohol can be pretty obvious. You worship the porcelain temple and then you pass out. With pot, the effects are less obvious. Pot gives you the illusion of feeling in control, but it interferes with a teen’s deep down brain development. As with all experimentation, some kids might see it as a treat every now and then, and others will begin to use it more regularly. According to the Monitoring the Future Study, one in 15 high school seniors is a daily or new-daily user of pot. And more alarming, pot use can start very young. About 13 percent of 8th graders have tried it in the past 12 months.
Educate your teens about pot
· Teach them the science of how pot affects their growing brain. There are receptors in the brain that just love THC, the chemical in pot. These receptors are connected to two very important parts of the brain. The Hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning, and the Cerebellum that controls balance and coordination. In short, regular use of pot can cause problems with thinking and problem solving (the hippocampus) and distorted perception of sight, sound and loss of motor coordination (the cerebellum). So much for the driving rationale. Responding to lights, sound and reaction time are all distorted.
· Does your teen suffer from anxiety? Pot is especially attractive to teens because it relaxes them and mellows out their stress. If they are someone who struggles with anxiety, pot can be a wonderful new best friend. There is nothing more uncomfortable than feeling anxious. Once a teen that suffers with anxiety tries pot, a love affair begins. Instead help your teen develop coping mechanisms for anxiety; meditation tapes, therapy, or party strategies and scripts for situations that make him/her uneasy.
· Be clear with your teen about your limits and consequences. Let your teen know that if you find evidence or strongly suspect pot use, they cannot get their license and/or use the family car until you feel convinced that they are not smoking pot.
· Pay attention to changes in grades; sleep habits, and avoidance of being with the family.
Talking with your teen that you already suspect is using pot is not easy. Expect them to be resistant, defensive, and in a lot of denial about this. Try really hard not to get mad. This will not serve you well in helping them to understand why this worries you so much. Information is power!