A parent who is facing a child’s drug abuse may feel a host of conflicting emotions, such as disappointment and guilt over any perceived parenting missteps.
But dealing with a child’s drug use, whether it is experimental or more developed, is a reality for many parents. Marijuana is often one of the main drugs of choice among teens and adolescents. Research shows that the majority of adolescents who enter drug rehab do so for marijuana abuse.
The ongoing use of marijuana among those 12-17 years old, as well as the lowered perception of using marijuana as a great risk, suggests that current drug policy is not effective enough.
Also importantly, the potency of marijuana (i.e., THC levels) has been on the rise over the last few decades. The increased potency presents greater risks, which may account in part for the high incidence of emergency room visits due to marijuana. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, in 2011, there were 455,000 emergency department visits due to marijuana use, and 13 percent of these cases involved youth aged 12-17.
Not all parents will catch their children using marijuana. The discovery process will therefore require some effort to uncover the truth.
The following are some ways parents can determine if their child is using marijuana:
The physical and psychological signs of marijuana use are the same as the side effects the user will experience. Most often, these effects are temporary and may only last up to a few hours. For this reason, parents may not have an opportunity to notice the physical side effects of marijuana use when children use marijuana away from home.
Some children may use marijuana at home or return home before the effects have fully worn away. It is important to know the physical side effects, which range in severity, but can include:
The behavioral signs of marijuana abuse can be the greatest tipoff to the existence of the problem. When individuals become psychologically addicted to marijuana, they will make the drug a main priority in their day-to-day lives, possibly to the exclusion of important work, family, school, and/or personal obligations. The following are some additional behavioral side effects of marijuana abuse:
Marijuana users, in order to protect their supply, may stash different quantities of the drug at home. Some parents will want to have evidence of marijuana abuse before approaching their child about their suspicions. For this reason, some parents may opt to search their children’s room, as well as the entire house, for marijuana and/or marijuana paraphernalia. There are numerous potential hiding places for marijuana, such as:
When parents reach a point where they are sure their child is using marijuana, the next concern will be how to approach the child. This necessary step can be fraught with unsettling emotions. It is important to gather motivation and momentum from the unfortunate reality that even occasional recreational drug abuse can escalate to addiction. Also, a host of negative consequences, such as an arrest, can arise from marijuana abuse.
When individuals experiencing marijuana abuse are in denial or resistant to getting help, concerned individuals often need guidance on how to get the person into treatment.
Oftentimes, marijuana abuse occurs as part of poly-drug abuse, which can make the need for treatment even more urgent. The best practice is to know about feasible treatment options before approaching the person who is abusing marijuana or other drugs. A next step is to have an informal or formal intervention.
An informal intervention can involve simply approaching the person to have a talk about the suspected or known drug use. According to Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, the following are some helpful points to keep in mind when discussing drug-related concerns:
In some cases, one or more concerned persons may decide that it is best to work with a professional interventionist. This individual is trained and experienced in ensuring safety in the intervention process. Also, a professional interventionist can help make arrangements with a rehab program. Drug abuse is often a volatile and exceptionally emotional issue in a family, and an interventionist can help to keep everyone on track with the goal of treatment.
From a treatment perspective, medical services are related to the specific drugs of abuse, which may be isolated to marijuana or include other use of other illicit drugs.
After medical detox, if needed, the recovering child will receive individual and group therapy. Although group therapy can be mixed age, the recovery center may offer a teen-only group to address substance abuse alongside issues that are particularly relevant to adolescents or teens.
The importance of the family in recovery cannot be overstressed. A rehab center that offers comprehensive programming may invite family members into therapy, especially in view of the minor age of adolescent or teen clients. Forms of family participation include family therapy (as a group that includes the recovering person), educational programs (about drug abuse and the recovery process), and/or family social gatherings on site.
Addiction professionals understand that family plays an integral role not only in leading individuals to recovery, but also in helping to keep them in the program, as well as in assisting with the aftercare process.