Contributed by Sarah Neale, MPH, CHES
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over one-third of Georgia teenagers have used marijuana. If you are like many parents, talking to your kids about marijuana can be a tough subject. However, research shows that teens whose parents talk to them about drugs are far less likely to begin using them. The Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments have put together a guide to help you get the conversation started!
Why should you care?
Marijuana is addictive, especially in teens. Their brains are still developing, which makes them particularly vulnerable to addiction. Many teens use marijuana to self-medicate, thinking it will improve ADHD or anxiety symptoms. However, marijuana is associated with depression, anxiety and paranoia as well as difficulty with memorization and distorted thinking.
What can you do to prevent marijuana use?
Set clear guidelines. Children whose parents have a positive attitude toward marijuana are five times more likely to use marijuana by 8th grade. It’s important to give explicit expectations against marijuana use, provide consistent consequences when rules are broken and provide compliments when your teen chooses healthy behavior.
Teach your teen to refuse drug offers. Help him or her find the right words, and suggest alternatives to using drugs. Talk about goals, and remind him or her how difficult it is to achieve goals if he or she begins using drugs. Let your teen know it is fine to walk away from someone who is offering drugs and call you for a ride home if needed.
How can you tell if your teen is using marijuana?
Be aware of changes in your teen’s behavior, such as carelessness, mood changes and relationship problems. Changes in grades, skipping school, loss of interest in favorite activities or changes in sleeping or eating habits could all be related to drug use. Also, remain alert for unexplained use of money, red, bloodshot eyes and smoke-related odor on their clothing and in their bedrooms.
What should you do if you think your teen is using marijuana or other drugs?
Stay calm. Overreacting may lead to rebellion and resentment. While there should be consequences for actions, this is not the time for anger, accusations, name calling or sarcasm.
Communicate. It is important to let your teen know your disapproval without making them feel rejected. Work together to problem solve and repeat guidelines you have previously set.
Get help. If you think your teen has an ongoing problem with marijuana, there are resources available for both you and your teen. The HOPE LINE is a 24 hour service that can help you find drug and alcohol resources near you. Call 800-NCA-CALL (800-622-2255), or visit https://ncadd.org/get-help/find-local-assistance.
**The parents’ guide was adapted from the Social Development Research Group of the University of Washington.
Sarah Neale is the Health Communications Coordinator with the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments. The Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments work to protect and improve the health of those who work, live and play in their community by monitoring and preventing disease; promoting health and well-being; and preparing for disasters. For more information please visit the Health Department’s website at www.gnrhealth.com or call the Health Promotion Office at 678-442-6891.