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How to Deal With Teenagers Smoking Pot

by Liza Blau

Marijuana use among teens has been on the increase since 2007, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. If your teen is smoking pot, you have reason to be concerned. A key ingredient in marijuana, THC, impairs the ability of those areas of the brain that are responsible for memory and learning, according to Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the NIDA. Dealing with a teen who is smoking pot requires skillful parenting.

Tell your teen that you know he's smoking pot. You might say, "I found pot in the ashtray of the car" or "I discovered pot in your coat pocket." Keep any anger in check and maintain a calm tone. If he becomes upset that you went through his belongings, avoid becoming defensive. Instead, steer the conversation back to his drug use. You might say, "I apologize for going through your pockets. Now please explain the pot." Be careful not to judge him for smoking pot, warns author Joe Connolly on the Great Schools website. If your teen becomes afraid of your reactions, it might cause him to shut down and withhold the truth.

Express your concerns to your teen about his pot smoking without turning it into a lecture. Explain that while under the influence of marijuana, it can increase his heart rate, cause anxiety, distort perception and impair judgment, thinking and problem-solving, according to WebMD. Pot can also impair motivation and memory, erode self-esteem, and lead to anger, paranoia and depression, reports author Katherine Ketcham on the Empowering Parents website. Heavy use can cause fertility, respiratory problems and changes in blood pressure. Warn your teen that it's illegal to possess marijuana, even in Colorado and Washington where possession has been legalized for adults. If convicted, he could face jail time and fines. Not only will having a criminal record cause him public humiliation, it could hurt his chances for being accepted into college and securing future employment.

Ask your teen why he smokes pot. Avoid questioning him in an accusatory or angry tone. Instead, you might say, "I'm curious -- why do you feel the need to smoke pot?" Show genuine interest and be empathetic to his response. Gently challenge his defense, recommends DrugFree.org. For example, if your teen claims the reason he smokes marijuana is because it helps him handle stress, you might say, "I understand that pot helps you deal with stress at school, but the consequences to your health aren't worth it."

Enforce consequences for smoking pot, but remind your teen that any punishments are out of love for him, recommends Ketcham. You might say, “I love you, and that's why I'm grounding you for smoking pot. I can't allow you to continue hurting yourself" or "I love you so much, and that's why I'm enforcing consequences for smoking pot to help you stop." Other consequences might include removing car privileges and monitoring his activities. Cut his income off if you suspect his allowance or part-time job wages are going into buying pot. You might say, “I'm putting the money you earn from your job into a savings account until you stop smoking pot."

Work with your teen to find healthier alternatives to pot that will help elevate his moods and alleviate stress, and ultimately bring greater rewards. If he's creative, sign him up for dance, photography, music, theater, art or dance classes. Or, if he's more athletically inclined, encourage him to swim, jog and play team sports. Exercise can help your teen feel more relaxed and happy, because it releases chemical endorphin's in the brain, according to KidsHealth. Many teenagers can be weaned off drugs by replacing them with meaningful activities, such as volunteer work, martial arts, yoga, creative endeavors and adventures outdoors, reports DrugFree.org.

Be a positive role model. Teens with family members who have problems with alcohol or drugs are more likely to have substance abuse problems, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. If your teen witnesses you reaching for a drink, cigarette or pill when you come home from work or are in a stressful situation, he's more likely to believe drugs and alcohol are effective ways to deal with stress, because that's what Mom and Dad do. Instead of developing inner strength for dealing with life's challenges, he'll reach for a crutch, such as pot. Avoid drinking and taking medication in front of your teen. Keep alcohol and medication in a locked cabinet.

Tip

  • Devise strategies and pat responses with your teen for dealing with peer pressure. For example, if he's offered pot, he might say "No, thanks. I'm no longer smoking pot" and walk away. Instruct him to immediately call you if he's ate a party or other social event where pot is being smoked and you'll pick him up.

Warning

  • Seek professional help from a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist or drug counselor if your teen continues to smoke pot. A trained professional can also help discover the emotional problems that has led to his need for so much marijuana.

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