Earlier this year I wrote a blog post called . . . 5 Things To Do When You Find Out Your Son Is Smoking Pot It has been read by 2,763 people so far! I think I know why this has become one of my most read blog posts. Teenage boys love marijuana. And, most […]
So, you just found out your son is smoking pot. The details may vary, but it is probably something like the following. You found pot or paraphernalia in his room. You saw a suspicious text message or a social media posting. Maybe he came home clearly high. Or maybe you heard a story from one […]
Adult Bum Smoking a SpliffI live and work in Northern California, home of the Emerald Triangle. If you have never heard of it, the name refers to three counties that together make up the largest cannabis producing region in the United States. Over 1 billion dollars of annual revenue from the cultivation of marijuana!
As you know, I also work with teenagers and young adults. Needless to say, I spend a lot of time talking about marijuana and working with people who are using it either recreationally or habitually.
This is why a new study from medical researchers at Harvard and Northwestern is particularly interesting to me.
Here are some of the most important points.
The study shows that 18- to 25-year-olds who smoke marijuana—even just recreationally!—had marked abnormalities in areas of their brains that regulate emotion and motivation.
It is absolutely good advice that young people should hold off on smoking pot as long as possible because their brains are still developing and the earlier the drug is taken, the worse the effects will be.
Now, I already knew that marijuana was bad for the developing adolescent brain, but I find it very interesting to see the connection to emotional regulation and motivation.
So many of the teenage boys I am working with are struggling with managing their emotions (read: anger) and finding motivation for schoolwork and other life responsibilities. These are normal adolescent challenges, but when you add casual marijuana use it really changes the landscape.
Of course we also know that teen marijuana use is linked to poor school performance, other drug use, and mental health problems. It really is not as harmless as some people believe (especially teenagers).
Important quote from the researcher:
(Referring to the parts of the brain which help control whether people judge things to be rewarding or aversive and whether they experience pleasure or pain from them)
“This is a part of the brain that you absolutely never ever want to touch,” Breiter asserts. “I don’t want to say that these are magical parts of the brain — they are all important. But these are fundamental in terms of what people find pleasurable in the world and assessing that against the bad things.”
This is serious stuff! I believe it is important to protect our teens, to educate them and support them as much as possible. Curiosity and experimentation are going to happen, it is not the end of the world if you catch your teen smoking pot, but it is something to take really seriously.
Here are two helpful links if you want to look into this a bit more.
The study mentioned above:
Recreational Pot Use Harmful to Young People’s Brains
A very informative and helpful post from my friend Linda Esposito, LCSW:
Teens and Drugs: A Plant-Based Diet Never Includes Weed
I heard a song the other day that I could not get out of my head.
It wasn’t just the catchy melody and the beat that stuck with me. I couldn’t stop thinking about the messages in the music, specifically about using drugs and having a “who cares” attitude.
The song is called “Young, Wild & Free” by Snoop Dog and Wiz Khalifa, two very well known hip-hop artists.
Please understand that I am not picking on rap music. I am simply using this song as an example. I could easily comment on what Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, John Mayer and the Foo Fighters are teaching our kids.
Musicians, celebrities and athletes are powerful influences on our young people and often they are the teachers that teenagers pay the most attention to. It is important to know what your kids are tuning in to and what kind of influences they are drawn to.
So, here it is. Drug education by Snoop Dog and Wiz Khalifa.
The chorus is a good summary for this four point lesson.
“So what we get drunk, So what we smoke weed. We’re just having fun. We don’t care who sees. So what we go out. That’s how it’s supposed to be, living young and wild and free.”
1. Partying is a mandate
“Yeah, roll one, smoke one. When you live like this you’re supposed to party.” Smoking pot and drinking alcohol is a way of life. Teenagers are supposed to experiment, right? Besides, pretty much everyone at school parties and smokes weed.
2. Fun is all that matters
“Roll one, smoke one and we all just having fun.” It’s no big deal and it doesn’t hurt anyone. If it feels good, it can’t be bad. Look at the people in the music video, they are having a blast hanging out and smoking pot.
“Blowin’ everywhere we goin’ and now you knowin’ – When I step right up, get my lighter so I can light up.” Drugs and alcohol will always add fun to any gathering of friends. In fact, it’s not really fun until everyone is getting messed up.
3. You shouldn’t care what people think
“And I don’t even care, cause if me and my team in there, there’s gonna be some weed in the air.” Who cares what your parents, your teachers and your coaches think. They don’t really understand anyway. Think about the stories you will be able to tell your friends.
4. You should be wild & free
Above all else, you should be able to do what you want, when you want to. You should be able to achieve the teenage dream of total freedom. You might as well push the limits and get away with as much as you can while you are young.
These are powerful messages wrapped up in a fun and danceable package.
(If you are curious, here is the link to the video of this song. Warning: it is definitely not safe for work.)
Here’s the truth
All you have to do is look at the criminal records for Snoop Dog and Wiz Khalifa to see that being young and wild does not lead to freedom.
Snoop Dog has been arrested for possession of marijuana, cocaine and illegal weapons dating back to 1993. He was charged as an accomplice in a murder and has also been involved in gang violence. He was accused of giving marijuana and ecstasy to minors and filming them doing sexual acts. Wiz Khalifa has been arrested for marijuana possession and drug trafficking.
Now, I am not saying that smoking pot will lead teenagers to use hard drugs and get involved in gang violence. However, there are serious consequences and risks involved with underage drinking and drug use.
It is inaccurate and dishonest to present a care-free party lifestyle without consequences. That is simply not a reality for most teenagers. A more likely picture involves family conflict, failing in school, juvenile hall and drug rehab programs.
I love what socially-conscious rap artist Macklemore has to say about these issues in his song Otherside.
“Us rappers underestimate the power and the effects that we have on these kids. Syrup, percocet and an eighth a day will leave you broke, depressed, and emotionally vacant. Despite how Lil’ Wayne lives, it’s not conducive to being creative.”
I think our kids deserve to hear the truth about what will lead them to happiness and success, despite what pop culture tells them.
What do you think?
In some ways the issues are the same, but the cultural landscape has changed. Parents have always been worried about the influence of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.
You might be the type of parent that has to know everything. You ask all the questions, search his room, check out his friends and monitor his Facebook updates.
Or, you might be the type of parent that gives the benefit of doubt, expecting the best from your son and veering away from difficult topics of conversation. You could be a mixture of both.
It is safe to assume that your son has or will be exposed to marijuana, alcohol, pornography, violent/degrading music and other equally concerning influences.
Here are some important questions to ask your teenager, keeping in mind his relationship with technology and the internet.
What about sex?
Do you or anyone you know use internet pornography?
Have you or anyone you know ever been a part of sexting? (texting or emailing sexually explicit images)
What are the messages you see about sex on the internet, TV and in movies?
What would you like to know about sex, but have been afraid to ask?
What about drugs?
Has anyone ever offered you drugs or alcohol? How did you handle that situation?
Are you friends with people on Facebook that use marijuana or alcohol?
Have you ever felt pressured by your friends to use drugs or alcohol?
Would you feel comfortable talking to me if you were using drugs or alcohol?
What about rock n’ roll?
What are the messages in your music about drugs, violence and women?
Does your music bring your mood up or down?
What does your music say about who you are as a person?
It is important to have regular conversations about these topics with your teenager. I guarantee that he is facing these issues every day at school and online as well.
Some of these topics might be uncomfortable for you, for a variety of reasons. Consider what might keep you from having open, honest conversations with your son.
These issues can bring wonderful opportunities for you and your son to connect on real life issues and grow closer together.
If you have concerns about your teenager in any of these areas, please consult a professional counselor for guidance and possibly individual or family counseling.