I think my child is smoking weed. What do I do?
For many parents, the idea of their child smoking weed is a nightmare. It seems like just yesterday, you were teaching them how to ride a bike and helping them get dressed for their first day of school. And now they’re using drugs?
This is a stressful situation. It can make parents feel a number of negative emotions. Most people are likely to feel angry, worried, and disappointed. Some parents may feel like they failed at their job. These are all reasonable emotions.
Luckily, marijuana is not the most dangerous drug on the market. It’s extremely rare for anyone to suffer a fatal overdose from smoking pot. And, just because they use marijuana doesn’t mean that they’re an addict. In some cases, smoking weed can be normal teenage behavior.
But, marijuana is a gateway drug. So in order to prevent the problem from getting worse, you have to take the right steps.
In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about youth marijuana abuse. We’ll explain the signs to look out for, how to handle the problem, and where to find help.
Youth Marijuana Statistics
If you found out your kid smokes pot, you’re not alone. Let’s take a look at America’s youth weed crisis.
Millions of young Americans use marijuana on a regular basis.
Here are a few statistics that give insight into America’s youth marijuana problem:
- By the time they graduate high school, 45% of children will have tried smoking marijuana.
- Around 6% of high school seniors are daily marijuana users.
- After vaping and alcohol, marijuana remains the most popular drug among children.
Interestingly enough, a study conducted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services shows that 69% of high school students disapprove of people who smoke pot. This is a 14% decline from 2006 when 83% of students said that they disapproved of marijuana use.
Marijuana Use Among Teens in Washington State
As of June 2019, Washington State is one of 11 states that have legalized recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21.
As an organization that’s located in the Evergreen State, it’s interesting for us to look at how legalization has affected local teens.
Here are a few interesting statistics we found about children smoking weed in Washington:
- 26% of high school seniors report smoking in the past month. 36% of them said it was very easy to obtain.
- 53% of teens who admitted to using marijuana say they’ve driven a vehicle while high.
- 33% of Washington children in 6th-12th grade believe there little to no risk in using marijuana regularly.
Signs to Look Out For
Not sure if your child smokes weed? Getting suspicious? Here’s how to figure it out.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to determine whether or not a child is using marijuana. There are a few signs of marijuana abuse:
If you’ve ever been in the presence of weed, you’ll be able to identify the smell right away. If you’ve never smelled it, keep your nose peeled for a musky odor on their clothing or in their room.
Weed smoke smells a lot like a skunk. While some teenagers tend to be stinky by nature, the smell of weed can be a sign that they’re using drugs.
Smoking weed makes your eyes turn red. This happens because marijuana decreases the user’s blood pressure. When a person’s blood pressure drops, their blood vessels dilate.
Bloodshot eyes are the result of the blood vessels in the eyes dilating. So, police officers often look for this sign when trying to determine whether or not someone has marijuana in their system. It’s a helpful way for parents to figure out if their kids are smoking pot, too.
Changes in Mood
Marijuana affects everyone differently. It makes some people very depressed and lazy. It makes others very anxious and paranoid. Sometimes, pot smokers go back and forth between these two emotional states.
In many cases, kids start smoking pot to self-medicate for preexisting mental health problems. They might suffer from undiagnosed depression disorder and use weed to make them feel better. The problem here is that they return to being depressed once they come down from being high.
Pay close attention to your kid’s mood. If their mood changes rapidly, it could be a sign of drug use.
Some marijuana users isolate themselves. Instead of going out with friends or spending time with family, they withdraw from social situations to get high. While this isn’t always the case, it happens to many kids. Marijuana becomes a source of joy that no other activity can compete with.
If your child used to be outgoing but now prefers to be alone, they might be smoking pot.
It’s important to remember that teenagers are prone to bouts of depression. Just because they want to be alone doesn’t mean that they use drugs. Don’t rush to judgment. But, social isolation is one of the potential signs of drug use, so keep an eye out.
What Does Marijuana Look Like?
When trying to figure out if your child smokes weed, it helps to know what marijuana looks like. If you go into your child’s room looking for a five-leafed plant, you’re not probably not going to find it.
So, here are some tips on what to look for:
Typically, marijuana is a greenish, brown substance that comes in small clumps, or “nuggets”. Smokers usually keep it in a sealed plastic bag to preserve its freshness. Sometimes, they may keep it in a sealable metal container like an Altoids tin.
If your child has access to medical-grade marijuana, it might be found an orange prescription bottle. Or, it might even come in a branded package like candy.
In some cases, your child might purchase pre-rolled cigarettes, or “joints”. These are roughly the same size and shape as a normal cigarette but don’t have an orange filter. They are usually rolled up at the end to prevent the weed from falling out.
For pictures, check out the marijuana image gallery on the DEA website.
What Does Edible Marijuana Look Like?
These days, marijuana comes in many forms. In states like Washington where cannabis is legal, stores sell thousands of different edible, marijuana-based products. Many of these products look like food products you’d find in a convenient store or health food shop.
Some popular marijuana products include:
- Vapes: Electronic devices that burn marijuana oil.
- Foods: Candies and baked goods that contain THC, the psychoactive ingredient from cannabis.
- Drinks: Juices and colas that contain THC.
- Creams: Body lotions and oils that are applied to the skin.
- Tinctures: Concentrated THC oils that are swallowed in small droplets, kind of like cough medicine.
If you think that your child might be using marijuana, keep an eye out for products like these. Somewhere on the label, it should have the words “cannabis” or “THC”. These are indicators that the product contains marijuana.
How to Help a Kid Who Smokes Pot
If you discover that your child is smoking weed, the first thing to do is remain calm. Don’t get upset. Yelling at them might just escalate the situation and cause them to rebel even more.
Instead, you should confront them in a stable, mature way. Tell them that you’re aware of their habit (only do this if you’re 100% sure).
If they admit to using marijuana, ask them why. Try to find out if there are any underlying depression, stress, or anxiety disorders driving them to use drugs. Let them know that you’ll get them into therapy if they need help.
Even if they admit to it, tell them that you won’t tolerate their behavior. If they refuse to stop (or refuse to admit it), you might have to ground them or set an early curfew to prevent them from smoking.
Additionally, you might take the following steps:
Explain the Health Risks
A lot of young people don’t understand that marijuana is dangerous. Because it’s legal in Washington and other states, many kids assume that it’s safe to start using as soon as they want to.
Like alcohol, marijuana is a drug that can cause harmful side effects in young people. It can stunt their physical and mental development. Make sure that your child understands that it’s a dangerous drug, even if it’s legal for adults.
Paying Them to Do Chores
If your child is too young to get a part-time job, you could pay them an allowance to do chores. This shows them that they have value and don’t need to use drugs to feel good about themselves.
If they’re old enough to work after school, help them find a job. This will instill a sense of responsibility and occupy a large portion of their time.
Complimenting Their Efforts to Quit
Encouragement works a lot better than punishment. If your child makes a sincere effort to stop smoking weed, let them know that you’re proud of them.
Early on, you might have to be stern. But, once they start making the effort themselves, you should compliment them. If they only think of you as the person who punishes them, you could sever your relationship.
Reach Out to Other People Involved
If your child smokes weed with their friends or gets weed from a friend, contact that person’s parents. Your teen probably won’t like this, but it’ll show them that you’re taking the issue seriously.
It also brings the problem to the friend’s parents’ attention. This may help to facilitate a better social environment for your child.
Researching Treatment Options
Sometimes, the best way to get a teen to stop smoking weed is to get them into rehab. They don’t have to move away and live in an inpatient rehab facility. Instead, they could attend an outpatient rehab program a few days per week.
Many teens go to outpatient rehab for drug problems. This gives them access to therapists and counselors who can help them through their issues.
Get your child the help they deserve. Learn more about our Intensive Outpatient Rehab Program!
How Does Marijuana Work?
Not a user yourself? Here’s a glimpse into why some kids smoke pot.
If you never smoked weed yourself, it can be difficult to understand why someone would do it.
But, marijuana has many calming effects. Sure, it can be very dangerous and there are several risks associated with smoking weed. Early on, however, it can be enjoyable for the user, causing them to feel euphoric. It’s only later that the drug becomes detrimental to their health.
In the past, marijuana was consumed primarily through smoking. Users would roll it into a cigarette, or “joint”, or pack it into a glass pipe called a “bong”. While these are still popular ways to smoke pot, the growing marijuana industry has popularized other forms into the market.
The drug releases THC into the user’s bloodstream. The chemical eventually makes it to their brain and causes them to get high.
How Weed Affects the Brain
The human brain depends on its ability to send speedy signals from one part to another. If you’re getting chased by a dog, your brain starts sending signals all over the place, warning you to get out of the situation as soon as possible. If you do something healthy like exercise, your brain sends out dopamine and serotonin, which makes you feel good, to reward you for taking care of yourself.
As mentioned, marijuana contains a chemical called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), that slows down communication in the brain. It slows everything down. This is why people who are high on marijuana tend to think and speak slower than normal—their brain isn’t firing as hot.
This quality is one of the reasons why marijuana is an effective painkiller for cancer patients and other terminally ill folks. Essentially, it interrupts the pain signals that the brain sends to the body. That way, they aren’t able to feel as much pain.
At the same time, however, THC also tricks the user into thinking that they’re doing something good. It generates dopamine, the pleasure chemical, which makes the user feel happy for a short time.
For a more in-depth explanation, check out this podcast video from Science Plus:
The Risks of Marijuana Abuse
Weed might make your kid feel good for a short amount of time. But, that feeling doesn’t last long.
Over time, pot smokers develop a tolerance for the drug. Their body gets accustomed to small amounts, and they need higher doses to feel the same effect. This means that they’ll have to inhale more smoke and spend more money to get high.
It also means that they’ll put themselves at serious risk. Some of the health risks associated with marijuana abuse include:
Slowed cognition: People who start smoking at an early age can prevent their brain from developing properly. Over time, they might have trouble problem solving or paying attention to single tasks.
Memory problems: Marijuana may affect the user’s short-term and long-term memory, especially if they start using when their brain is still in development. This can cause all kinds of problems in their academic and professional lives.
Increased risk of mental illness: Studies show that pot smokers have a higher chance of developing mental illnesses like anxiety disorder and schizophrenia. The risks are even higher if the user is related to people who suffer from such conditions.
The Risks of Edible Marijuana
Cannabis food products are very popular with teens. Particularly in states like Washington, where marijuana is legal and accessible, teens gravitate toward these digestible products.
After all, teens aren’t smoking cigarettes nearly as much as they used to. From 2011 to 2018, teen cigarette consumption dropped by nearly 16%. So, why would a kid smoke marijuana if it grosses them out? Why wouldn’t they just opt for weed brownies or gummy bears instead?
Unfortunately, edible marijuana is just as dangerous as smoking it. While it doesn’t carry the obvious risks of smoke inhalation (lung disease, etc), it’s just as impactful on the brain.
In some cases, it’s even more dangerous for the brain. The problem, of course, is that it’s easier for kids to take too much.
A single gummy bear may contain as much as 500mg of THC, which is enough to send even the heaviest user into a mental spiral. If an inexperienced teen takes this (or multiple gummy bears) to get high, they could suffer from severe hallucinations and face long-lasting side effects.
The Danger of “Dabs”: Children Smoking Concentrated THC
“Dabbing” has become an increasingly popular method of weed consumption over the past few years. This practice involves cooking marijuana into a soft, sticky oil. This oil is referred to by several names, including:
- Butane hash oil (BHO)
In many ways, dabs are to marijuana what crack is to cocaine. It’s far more powerful than normal marijuana. It enables the user to get much higher, much faster.
The teens who use dabs are typically those who’ve been smoking pot for a while and have developed a tolerance. If a new user tried to smoke dabs, they’d likely get very nauseous. They might also become extremely paranoid.
There are several risks involved in smoking dabs. On top of the psychological risks associated with all marijuana, dabs pose a few additional ones:
- “Dirty” oil: Dabs is a street drug. The people who make them are usually not professionals. A bag of hash oil can contain all kinds of poisonous byproducts from the cooking process (butane, solvents, etc).
- Increased risk of overdose: Marijuana overdoses are hardly ever fatal. However, some users experience panic attacks, hallucinations, and bouts of psychosis. Inexperienced teens are at a high risk of overdosing if they smoke dabs.
The Gateway Drug: Why Child Marijuana Use is Something to Be Concerned About
Some people argue that marijuana use is nothing to worry about. But, that’s not true. While it’s not as dangerous as more illicit substances like heroin or crystal meth, it can still have negative effects.
As you may know, marijuana is widely considered to be a “gateway” drug. Oftentimes, young people smoke weed for a while before transitioning to heavier substances like cocaine or ecstasy.
While not all marijuana smokers move onto heavier drugs, some of them do.
One study shows that young adults who used marijuana are far more likely to develop alcoholism down the line. Another study shows that people who are addicted to marijuana are three times more likely to get addicted to heroin.
No one ever plans to become a drug addict. It just slowly happens through repeated use. It’s important to understand that nearly 10% of people who use marijuana eventually become dependent on it. Roughly 17% of people who start using as teenagers develop an addiction. No matter how strong-willed or intelligent a person is, they can easily slip into addiction.
Getting Help for Your Kid: Marijuana Rehab Programs
When we think about drug rehab, we don’t usually think about marijuana. Typically, rehab is more associated with hard drugs like heroin, cocaine, or even alcohol.
But, rehab can be very beneficial for those who struggle with cannabis use disorder. It’s especially helpful for teens.
In a drug rehab program, teens spend time with therapists and counselors who help them overcome their behavior. They address the psychological roots of their condition and develop healthy techniques for managing stress. They also meet in group therapy sessions with other kids who are overcoming pot addiction.
A lot of times, teens turn to drug use because they’re stressed, depressed, or anxious. They might be overwhelmed by school or relationships. They might see drugs as a way to fit in with their peers and let loose.
In rehab, they learn why drugs aren’t the answer to their problems. They spend time reflecting on their choices and work to develop a plan for moving forward without relapsing.
Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehab
There are several different types of rehab. Some are inpatient programs, for example. These are the programs where addicts move in for a month and live on-campus at the treatment center.
Typically, inpatient programs are better for heroin addicts, alcoholics, and people who’ve hit rock bottom in their lives.
For marijuana addicts, outpatient rehab is usually a better option. In these programs, the addict attends therapy and counseling a few days each week. This allows them to keep up with school, work, and extracurricular activities.
If your child smokes marijuana, they probably don’t need to move away to get clean. A few months of intensive outpatient rehab could help them get better.
Ready to get your child back on the right track? Find out more about our Drug Rehab Program!
Marijuana Addiction and Mental Illness: Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders
Many drug addicts suffer from co-occurring disorders. This means that they struggle with drug addiction and another mental illness at the same time.
Mental illness is particularly common among marijuana users. Some people use weed as a way to self-medicate and deal with their mental illness. Others trigger schizophrenia or anxiety disorder by smoking marijuana.
Whatever the case, these individuals require specialized treatment. They must attend a rehab facility that specializes in dual diagnosis disorders if they want to get better. There, they receive treatment from doctors who understand how to treat co-occurring disorders.
Does your son or daughter struggle with a mental condition? Learn how our Co-Occurring Disorder Program could improve their life!
Do Marijuana Addicts Need Detox?
Typically, addicts go through a detox program before they attend rehab. This allows them to go through drug withdrawals before they try to focus on therapy.
As you may know, drug withdrawals are usually very painful. When someone tries to quit drinking alcohol or using heroin, they often get very ill. They don’t sleep for weeks and vomit for days on end.
Luckily, marijuana withdrawals are not usually as intense. Recovering users may feel slightly anxious and might have difficulty sleeping. But, they don’t experience nearly as painful as alcohol withdrawal.
So, it’s unlikely that your child needs to go through detox if their only problem is smoking weed.
If they also struggle with alcoholism or are addicted to another drug, detox might be necessary. Talk to a representative at the treatment center to determine the best course of action.
Does your child need to detox? Our Medical Detox Program could be your best option!
Evergreen at Northpoint: Helping Families Overcome Marijuana Addiction
The Evergreen at Northpoint is a drug and alcohol treatment facility, located in Bellevue, WA. We provide detox and rehab services for all kinds of addicts.
Throughout our years in the industry, we’ve helped many addicts overcome their substance abuse problems. It’s our pleasure to see them go from abusing drugs to living healthy, productive lives.
If your son or daughter is abusing marijuana, we want to talk. Contact us today. We’ll assess the issue and determine whether our rehab program can put them back on the right path.