Talking with your teen about marijuana use

parent and teen

With the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in California, concern about the drug’s impact on teens is increasing among physicians. Seth Ammerman, MD, explained in an editorial published this week in American Family Physician that although recreational marijuana use remains illegal for those under 21 years old, use of the drug among this population is common, with more than 20% of 12th graders reportedly having used it within the past month.

A Stanford Medicine Scope blog highlights the editorial, in which Ammerman discusses the negative effects that marijuana use among teens can lead to, including:

… decreased reac­tion time and impaired motor coordination, leading to higher rates of serious and fatal motor vehicle crashes; poor school and work performance, with higher rates of school dropout; depression and anxiety; psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia in those with a predisposition; and cognitive impairments, such as short-term memory loss and possible IQ decline.

Earlier this year I spoke with Shashank Joshi, MD about ways parents should approach the topic of marijuana with their teens. Joshi’s advice was for parents to keep the conversation going by looking for everyday opportunities to discuss it, or by including the topic of marijuana in conversations they may already be having about teen drinking.

A tip sheet of practical talking points for parents and teens to have these discussions accompanies Dr. Ammerman’s editorial this week. These include:

  1. Marijuana is not a benign drug for teens. The teenage brain is still developing, and marijuana may cause abnormal brain development.
  2. Teens who use marijuana regularly may develop serious mental health disorders, including addiction, depression and psychosis.
  3. Recreational use of marijuana by minors and young adults under the age of 21 years is illegal and, if prosecuted, may result in a permanent criminal record, affecting school, jobs, etc.
  4. Never drive under the influence of marijuana or ride in a car with a driver who is under the influence of marijuana.
  5. Marijuana smoke is toxic, similar to secondhand tobacco smoke. The use of vaporizers or hookahs does not eliminate the toxic chemicals in marijuana smoke.
  6. For parents: You are role models for your children, and actions speak louder than words. So if you use marijuana in front of your teens, they are more likely to use it themselves, regardless of whether you tell them not to.
  7. For parents: If your child asks you directly whether you have used marijuana, a brief, honest answer may help the child feel comfortable talking with you about drug use issues. However, it is best to not share your own histories of drug use with your children. Rather, discussion of drug use scenarios, in general, may be a more helpful approach.

For more information, read the full editorial and tip sheet in American Family Physician.

 Also see: Scope


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