My teen is using marijuana to cope with stress


Episode # 87

Question of the Day:

Dear Torie,  “My oldest son just confided in me that he has been using marijuana to cope with COVID anxiety, the stress of online school and the sadness of missing so many things. How do I respond? Is he telling me because he’s concerned? Does he want me to set boundaries? I’m not sure what to say to him, can you help?”  To help me answer this question is my best friend and youth educator, Marlene Mahurin. Marlene works for the Nevada County office of education to bring prevention education into classrooms by educating teachers and peers at middle and high schools.  Marlene suggests asking for more information. Most teens use marijuana for fun and to party, or to help cope with stressful emotions. This mom’s son has already said he is using it to cope with stress.  What are healthy alternatives to managing stress? Are you modeling healthy alternatives to managing your own stress? If Mom is using a glass of wine to manage her stress, it may be a good time to brainstorm other ways to wind down that may work for both of you.  Face timing friends, going for a walk, exercising, meditation apps, journaling, bedtime story apps, are all healthy alternatives to managing stress.  What teens should know about marijuana:
  1. In the 80’s marijuana had 3-5% THC in a product. Now marijuana plants are closer to 30% THC. Edibles and oils can be up to 90%. 
  2. Introducing a brain altering substance before the age of 25 can have long term negative effects for youth. The longer they can wait to try them, the risk of addiction goes down. 
  3. Marijuana has been reclassified as an addictive substance now that the potency to THC has gone up. While the PERCEPTION of harm has decreased, the reality of today’s marijuana is that it’s more harmful than ever. 
  4. While the brain is in a rapid growth state, any substance you introduce can cause the brain to grow around it and become dependent on it. 
Can you appeal to your child’s sense of independence and not wanting to become dependent on a substance?  Can you talk to your child’s desire to be healthy or his ambitions for the future?  Make sure you are looking at the long term effects of marijuana use, not just the short term. It might help you fall asleep in the short term, but the sleep problems didn’t start until marijuana use began.     

Life Coaching Answer: What gets in our way?

Watching our child be stressed! It is really hard to live with anyone stressed or who has anxiety and depression. When it’s your kid, and you are a Supermom, it’s especially hard! We get highly invested and work really hard to get them to feel better so we can feel better.  It can be difficult to watch our kids feel uncomfortable and sit with their suffering even when that’s exactly what needs to happen.  It’s important to use the stress to learn more about ourselves. We need to dig into the root cause of anxiety, not cover up with a quick fix. What has this year taught you that you want more of and less of? When you cover up the longing, the sadness and frustration, you miss the opportunity to make your life better.  Listen to the discomfort and stress and use it to become a better version of yourself.  Consider hiring a life coach for your teenager. You wouldn’t let them play a sport without a coach. Why not get them a coach to help them with life? Therapy is great if they are clinically depressed and unable to function without drugs. If they are functional, still doing school and socializing, but want to feel better, life coaching is a great fit.  We want our teenagers to have lots of experiences of feeling vulnerable and uncomfortable towards a long term goal. As moms, we can encourage our teens to allow their discomfort and take emotional risks that will give them the long term results they want. Courage doesn’t feel good but it’s a feeling we all need to practice right now. 

Before you talk to your teen: 

The energy you are in when you talk to your teen is very important. Make sure you have fleshed  out all your fears in a journal, with a friend, coach or counselor. Write in your journal and be on the lookout for catastrophizing and futurizing. Release those fears and come back to the present moment with clean energy.  Don’t try and talk to your child if you have any sense of urgency. Ask yourself “Who do I want to be when talking to my child about marijuana?” “What emotion do I want to be in?”   

When you are ready to talk to your teen: 

Thank them for bringing it up. Stay calm and neutral in your tone. Ask questions that open up communication. Encourage them to share their experiences with you. Not only might your conversation be helpful to your child, you empower your young adult to be a resource and help roommates, friends or neighbors who might be struggling.   

Ask your teen: 

How often are you using?  A year from now, how will you feel if you are still using it to cope with stress?  At what point would you get concerned about your marijuana use? Err on the side of caution. Seek help from teen clinics, Narcotics Anonymous or other services in your community who specialize in addiction.  Click here to find more resources

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