Just how often do you hear accounts of parents whose kids experimented with marijuana and ended up using more dangerous "hard" drugs? If you find out your son has started smoking pot, what would you do? And how would you react if he openly admits smoking pot because he sees nothing wrong with it?
While proponents of cannabis will argue that marijuana is just a harmless recreation drug, there are still very real dangers associated with it.
According to Dale Kirk of the drug education consultancy for businesses MethCon Group, one of the biggest concerns of drug abuse lately is the use of marijuana being "romanticized".
"It is a passive acceptance in New Zealand that cannabis is ok," Kirk says. "We have been sold this romantic notion for years that cannabis is a soft drug, that it's harmless. We have compared it to other harder drugs such as methamphetamine or heroin, yet it is a drug that has developed over time and it is a lot stronger than it was 30 or 40 years ago. We've got inter-generational use now. It's no surprise to me having seen firsthand that it's widespread," he adds.
Right now, thanks to the people debunking theories that marijuana is a gateway drug, picketing for its legalization, and making statements that marijuana is safer than alcohol and tobacco, it's no wonder why teen use of marijuana is on the rise.
"It's a loss for adolescents exposed to this, and a loss for all of us." says Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, commenting on the rise of eighth graders who used marijuana in the past year according to the American Psychological Association. "The younger the age of initiation, the greater likelihood they will become dependent," she adds.
One thing is clear. If you love your teen, you will do your best to keep him (or her) away from drugs, because the dangers of marijuana use are real. Intervention is required as early as possible.
What is an Intervention, and Why is it Necessary?
Repeated abuse of any kind of drug can have severe repercussions on the important measures of life achievement that is normally defined during the teenage phase, which is choosing a lifelong career, choosing a lifelong partner, and getting ready to separate from the family and raise one.
Studies also indicate that that marijuana’s negative effects on attention, memory, and learning can persist for weeks after the effects of the drug wear off; consequently, a habitual user may be functioning at a reduced intellectual level. Evidence also points out that teen marijuana users tend to score lower grades and are more likely to drop out of high school. One of the most thorough studies to date found out that marijuana abuse consistently linked with poor school performance and high chance for becoming at risk.
An intervention is a coordinated effort by one or many people, usually including family members, to get your teen help with his or her addiction. There are two types of intervention you can do: formal, which is the employment of public or private intervention programs, counseling programs, drug addiction support groups, etc. as a means to control addiction; and informal which is the family's effort to provide constant monitoring, education and support usually through the setting up of house rules, limitations, and curfew.
The success of the intervention depends on your teen's temperament, his or her willingness to change, and the frequency and duration of the abuse. For this, it is important that parents start the intervention with a planned discussion with the teen with the objective of knowing about the problem. Parents need to know the details of the teen's addiction, such as the duration, frequency, his or her sources, who introduced the drug, the places they do drugs, etc. After which, they can decide which intervention method is best suited for the teen.
As parents provide the first line of defense against negative elements, it your role to keep your kids drug free through constant education. Communication is particularly important, so take every opportunity to voice out your expectations, during mealtimes, when driving them to school, at queue lines, etc.
Discuss about the dangers of drug use, smoking, drinking to excess, sex, and your feelings about them. Having these conversations on a regular basis will not only make the topic of values education completely normal in your family, it will also promote a positive environment which, in turn, will help develop your kids into a type of teenager who can withstand negative societal influences.
Likewise, encourage your kids to voice out their feelings in different situations. You can initiate the conversation with "You look sad today. Want to talk about it?" Build strong relationships with your kids, create a sense of intimacy and togetherness, and give support and encouragement in any aspects of their lives. This in turn, will go a long way in promoting a healthy relationship with your teens.
In a few words, parents who take time to educate their kids about the right values usually encounter less trouble when their kids turn into teenagers.
Preventive Measures at Home
As parents are the first line of defense against negative elements, the home, too, should be a safe haven for your teens. Setting up house rules and regulations is a way of teaching youngsters how to follow public law and respect authority later on. That said, impose rules, regulations and limitations that coincide with your ideas for proper behavior and which reflect what you expect from your children.
If you don't know what kind of rules you can impose in the house, here are some for starters:
- Vulgar language, curse and cuss words are not allowed in the house
- Courtesy should be practice within family members and guests. There will be no rudeness, putdowns or insults. When meeting with people, common courtesy should include saying hello, introducing oneself and making guests feel welcome
- Rooms should be kept clean and tidy
- Acting out of consequences for breaking rules is not tolerated. This includes actions like pouting, acting like a victim, crying, acting rude, angry or self-destructive.
- Daily and weekly assigned chores should be completed
- Family dinners and family activities should take precedence over other matters
- School work should be completed as specified by teachers
How You Can Influence Outside of the Home
Parents do not need to feel alone in the fight against drugs. Many towns have awareness programs, events and organizations design to help teens and their families counter drugs. Drug dealers also tend to steer clear of close knit neighborhoods in which the community stands united against these kinds of elements.
Here are some other things you can do as a community:
- Coordinate with other families to form a community patrol, block association, or neighborhood watch.
- Coordinate with the families of your teenagers' friends and keep tabs about their activities.
- Provide a two way communication with the police by keeping them informed about suspicious drug activities, which can be reported anonymously.
- Call the city public works department for help in cleaning up. Blazing lights, litter-free streets, and newly-planted flowers tell drug dealers that residents care too much about their neighborhood to hand it over.
- Investigate your teenager's school drug program if it is effective in curbing drugs.