Article written by: Molly Ward, LCSW (She/Hers)
is one of the most widely used substances amongst teens and the concern for use is real. use threatens teens ability to develop, create and maintain healthy boundaries and communication skills in relationships with peers and adults.
It impedes their ability to learn how to cope with emotions and can negatively impact all areas of a ‘s life. It creates conflict and tension at home and can be really difficult to navigate as a parent.
Facts About :
The your is using is not the same as it used to be. In the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, had levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – the primary psychoactive agent in that creates the high – of about 5%. In the late 2000’s, these levels increased to an average of 14%.
Today, levels range from 10% – 30% and higher. On top of that, is also being offered in a concentrated form, such as wax. These forms can have a potency level of 40% – 80%.
This is astronomically higher than how potent used to be and its effects are unprecedented. Many teens are using concentrated THC as it is easier to hide, travel with, and does not produce the same smell that flower does.
Although non-medical and use is on the rise for therapeutic reasons, it can often do the opposite of what people are looking for.
According to the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, studies show that consistent and decrease dopamine levels. This makes it harder to regulate emotions and leave people feeling more depressed. use may actually increase symptoms of depression and
A fact that parents often like to share with their teens is how use is impacting their . It’s true – our brains are not fully developed until we are around 25 years old. This means that the damage that we do to our brains when we are young has long lasting effects. It most directly impacts the pre-frontal cortex, the part of our responsible for executive functioning.
This includes decision making, emotional regulation, and the ability to learn. (For more information about THC levels, head to mjfactcheck.org)
Impact of Use On Teens:
Most of the teens that come in my office tell me that the reason that they use is because they are struggling with thoughts of , struggling in social settings, feeling sad and lonely, struggling to go to sleep or stay asleep and/or feeling bored. They explain how helps with these struggles and why they feel attached to the .
Your is not wrong – in some ways it is giving them what they need. Once they are high they are able to forget about their problems, think about them differently, slip into a vegetative state that helps them sleep or makes activities more enjoyable.
The issue is that is a temporary solution.
In fact, in the long run, they only exacerbate their problems, making them worse, creating more dependency on using drugabuse.gov) as way of escaping. is helping them cover up the root of their issues, not coping, dealing or understanding them. Using in this form leads to and even dependence. (For more information, learn about it through publications on
The younger a person is when they start using a , the higher they are of developing problematic use as an older adolescent or adult. Leading again to maladaptive ways of coping with life stressors and of poorer .
7 Tips For Talking With Your About
1. Express your concern in a way that allows room for a conversation.
As a parent you may have strong beliefs about the negative effects of use. You may have had countless conversations with your explaining why it is bad, how it effects their and conveying your concern over and over.
This is an important conversation to have, however, when it is the response every time the issue comes up your starts to tune you out. They start to predict what your response might be and feel shame and guilt when discussing it with you.
In turn, this does the opposite of what you’re looking for – connecting with and supporting your .
This doesn’t mean that you can’t express your concern about their use, but it does mean that once you have expressed your concern and discussed it in a calm way, you can ease up on this part of the conversation.
Conversations that are aren’t loaded with strong beliefs or an emotional reaction let your know that you are open to hearing them and decrease the of an argument occurring.
That way your conversation is a dialogues, not a fight.
2. Ask questions to understand the reason your . uses
The most important part of this discussion is understanding their use and what draws them to using .
Why do you like using
How does it support you?
What do you feel are the positive experiences of using?What does it give you?
The answers will give you much more insight about what their struggles are and why are they are using so you can better support them.
Once you have explored this, you can also ask your how they see their use negatively impacting their life. You might be surprised to learn that they have thought about this.
If they know that you are willing to listen and genuinely curious, they will be much more open to thinking about this question and offering an honest answer rather than responding defensively.
3. Withhold judgment as you learn more.
If your is feeling judged, they will struggle to open up to you. This can be the hardest part as you love your and feel worried, but if you can let go of those judgements and open up a dialogue, you will all feel more connected and communication will be more open.
Learning ways you can manage your while having these conversations with your will help you both.
4. Resist the urge to lecture.
If you ask your about the negative impacts and they don’t have an answer, resist the urge to tell them the ways that it is. For example, instead of commenting on their slipping grades and how you believe their use is a factor, turn that statement into a question like “Do you think it’s impacting you at school?” If they don’t agree, ask “Can I share what I notice?”
There are many of using and approaching this in a curious way with your can be more effective than a lecture.
5. Be clear about your message.
When talking about your ‘s use, it’s important that you understand what your message is. Do you want them to be sober? Do you accept their use, but want them to only use it in recreational settings? When teens get different messages, it can be confusing and hard to meet your expectations.
6. Set clear rules and expectations around
Once you have decided what your stance is on their use, you can then decide what you want your rules and expectations to look like. You might say something like:
“Thank you for opening up to me. I can see why you find helpful. However, in our household we just can’t tolerate use because we care about you and your future. In our home our expectation is that you don’t use substances, so if we catch you using or know that you are using, the will be ____”.
After that, let the do the talking. If there is a big fight every time your uses, your falls further away from being understood. Know that you have done your job explaining why you think it has negative effects and calmly remind them that as discussed, there will be a and leave it at that.
7. Be consistent and patient with yourself.
You might find you are having a conversation with your more than once. If so, that’s okay. Take a breath and repeat after me – you’re doing it just fine. The most important part is that you are consistently giving your the same message and consistently enforcing your rules. This is what is expected of them in the world and sets them up to be healthy adults.
Supporting your with use issues can be incredibly draining and tricky. You may feel worried that by not consistently addressing your concerns every time the topic comes up that you are sending them the message that their use is okay.
If you’ve taken the steps to have a heartfelt conversation with them and then explained what the expectations, consequences and rewards look like, then your will hear you loud and clear.
You might not see the reward for your work right away, but with time things can change. It’s not about immediately changing their behavior, it’s about making your guidelines clear and reinforcing that message over and over again so that when they go out into the world on their own, they understand that the world also has expectations, just like at home. And that there are consequences when they don’t meet these, just like at home.
Patience is key. You can do this.
Reach Out For More Support
If you’re needing more support in talking with your about use, we offer therapy and family therapy in Denver, Colorado to help facilitate these conversations and empower you to apply this at home. You’re taking on an incredible task in the midst of doing the hardest job in the world. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Molly is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who works with teens, young adults, families, and parents providing support for substance use concerns, healthy body image, anxiety, depression, and ADHD.
She is trained in family systems and uses a collaborative approach to helping clients learn ways of managing life and relationship stress.
Denver Metro Counseling is a group of clinicians who provide therapeutic support for teens, adults, parents, and families. We help people learn to build positive relationships through identifying and building boundaries with themselves and others.
Click on the links below for more information:
Young Adult Counseling
Support for Therapists
Help For Depression
Substance Use and Recovery Support
Trauma Therapy and EMDR