How best to parent a teenager that uses cannabis daily.

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Casual scribe

How best to parent a teenager that uses cannabis daily.

I am the parent of a 17 year old young man who has taken an interest in cannabis.  He now seems to use it frequently, often times while alone.  I have had open and honest discussions on the dangers of useing cannabis as a young person; legal, health, social, acedemic...  It does not seem to change his mind.  He claims he is very descreet about his use and does not bother or harm anyone.  Any advice from paranets that have gone through this before?

Super contributor

Re: How best to parent a teenager that uses cannabis daily.

Hi @workingdad2 Welcome to ReachOut parents. Thanks so much for posting.


Cannabis use in young people can be a tricky issue to address as so many young people experiment and then stop somewhere in their twenties and have happy, healthy, non-drug dependant lives. But some, unfortunately, end up on a really hard path that can sometimes last years. So it's almost impossible, as a parent, to not feel fear when we watch our teenagers start to use drugs with some regularity.


The fact that you guys are able to have " open and honest discussions" is great and says you're definitely doing something right. One of the things I've found when working with young peple, and with my own, is to try not to guage the impact of the discussion based on whether they change their behaviour immediately. It doesn't mean he's not hearing you. Check out The Other Talk run by the Australian Drug Foundation it has lots of great info and tips on discussing alcohol and drugs with your young people. 


Has he explained what he enjoys about his cannabis use. If you're up for it, and if it's too uncomfortable that's fine, you could do the " What's good and not so good about cannabis?" This is where he writes down on one side all the stuff he thinks is good about cannabis ansd the other all the stuff he thinks is not so good. The trick is letting him determine without intervention. So if he says "relaxtion" is a positive, not telling him that it's better to do it other ways. Which is very hard!! The point of the list is to see how it weighs in his life, if it's all good with no not so goods, he's unlikely to give it up. Which is where the ongoing discussion comes in. You can keep referring back to the list. Give him honest feedback when he's open to it. And call your local Headspace to see if they do drug counselling, to be ready if he asks for it.


And don't forget to keep your boundaries up. Is he getting a mixed message by being allowed to smoke at home? Or is he doing it somewhere else? Take some time to write down what you are and are not ok with in terms of his cannabis use. It's good for him to be clear how you feel about it.


Last thing from me, it's really important that your relationship with your son doesn't become all about cannabis and nothing else. I'm sure you already do but, if not, here's a gentle reminder to keep talking to him about other stuff. try not to let this eclipse everything else.


I'm so keen to hear from other parents about this. 

Casual scribe

Re: How best to parent a teenager that uses cannabis daily.

Thank you so much for posting such a thoughtful response to my situation.  I really appreciate the feedback!


He has told me why he likes it, where he cited school pressure and college prep being high on his list for stressers.  He said it helps him relax.  He is a high performer at school as well as in his work, music and sports.  I think he puts a tremendous amount of pressure on himself to exceed any excpetations.  We discussed how and where he buys it, what he uses, when he started and how frequently he uses it.  We talk about everything.  I have been careful not to over-react or judge him in any way, which is hard.  I want so badly to say "Stop It!  or you will be grounded!"...  but that I fear will lead to him doing it secretly and feeling as if he needs to lie about it.  I just don't see that working.


I know about a little about medical cannabis and have done quite a lot of research.  He asks me lots of questions about it.  I try to be as honest and clear in my information as I can, without tilting to approval.  I tell him I don't approve of it, it is illegal for a minor and generally a bad idea for a developing brain to have to process.  I also explain I am a realist and know that if I am not available to help and answer questions he may feel he needs to go elsewhere to have support and accurate information.  I value our relationship too much for that.  We are very close.


One of my biggest concers is he seems to be interested in synthetics and cannabis products like wax, oils, shatters and the like.  I told him I really feel that is not a good idea.  The THC levels in some of these products are alarmingly high, and dangerous in my opinion.  He took the information and and said he understood.  My recommendation was to steer clear of all of these types of products, including edibles. 


I will take your advice on dicussing with himthe good / not so good aspects in his opinion, making a list, talkig about it.  I will also make clear my rules: 1) do not use it at home, there are younger siblings here  2) do not use it and drive, or drive with anyone who is using cannabis  3) do not have it on school property, ever.  4) if you are in trouble or need help, please ask me right away and I will help, no questions asked.


Again, I really appreciate the discussion and advice.  This is hard!








Super contributor

Re: How best to parent a teenager that uses cannabis daily.

Hey @workingdad2 You're right, it is hard, but, you are handling this as well as you possibly can. You've laid the groundwork for your son to feel free to make some healthy decisions for himself. Which is ultimately what we as parents are aiming for, I believe.


I share your concern re. synthetic cannabis. The Dept. of Health, via the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (recently de-funded Robot Mad) made the statement a few years ago that it was BETTER to smoke regular cannabis than synthetic cannabis. So far there have been zero deaths caused solely by cannabis, without extenuating circumstances. Already in this country we've seen two deaths directly resulting from synthetic cannabis use. You're right, the THC levels are ridiculously high but it's also a man-made version of THC, un-tested on ANYTHING. Made in factories in countries without legislation and then shipped in, marked as incense. There are no longitudinal studies on what this stuff might do over an extended period of time but it has mental health professionals VERY concerned. I'm sure you already have, but the angle of 'if you have any plans to use your brain in the future, you might want to stop or switch' could be repeated a few times.


Your list of boundaries sound great. They are clear, logical and focused on his health and well being. Rather than belief systems which can create conflict. Have you considered playing out, in your mind or on paper, what occurs if he doesn't uphold them? It can really help parents stay calm during conflict if they know what the next steps are, rather than scrambling for a consequence in the heat of the moment. Would this be helpful for you?


Based on some of your references, I think you might be based in The States. We are happy to have you but I just wanted to alert you to us being an Australian service so all of the referrals we make will be to Aus based services. Unfortunately there isn't a ReachOut Parents US but there is one for young people. It's here. You could suggest your son give it a go. There are lots of young people there with similar things going on for them and he might discover alternative coping skills.

Active scribe

Re: How best to parent a teenager that uses cannabis daily.

Hello I too have the same proplem with my 16 year old. I recently caught him in his room with his friend smoking what he calls pot from a bong. I really dont know how to deal with this. I spoke to him open and honestly as I a nurse and tried to explain the effects on the body etc I have set boundaries which I feel are appropriate and explained to him although i am disappointed I still love him. Is there any support froups parents can go to to handle this situation i live in the northern suburbs.
Super contributor

Re: How best to parent a teenager that uses cannabis daily.

Hi @Mum2017 Welcome to ReachOut Parents! We are thrilled to have you here.

And thank you for sharing your post with us.


It can be very confronting to catch a teenager taking drugs. Especially if drug taking is not something you have any experience with. The important thing to try and remember is that many more young people experiment than go on to take drugs problematically. When he says he's "smoking pot" that's another name for cannabis. The big difference between cannabis and other drugs, including alcohol, is that it's impossible to overdose on cannabis. Which is not the same as having too much and feeling sick, vomiting or even passing out but, as far as deaths resulting from excessive cannabis use, the number is zero.

There are some support groups around for parents but my concern is that they are usually attended by parents whose kids have serious drug dependency issues and there's a chance that might fill you with such fear about what MIGHT happen, that it would impact your ability to maintain an honest, open dialouge with your son. Family Drug Support are available by phone 24 hours a day. They are a great service to discuss strategies to support your son while maintianing your boundaries. You might also find here is a good place to get some support and debrief a little. You can always start a new topic here on ways to approach this.


I'm keen to hear from @workingdad2 too. Any suggestions?

Casual scribe

Re: How best to parent a teenager that uses cannabis daily.

Good morning. 


One of the most upsetting things about your kids using things like cannabis is knwoing that they feel they NEED to get high to get away from their stressful lives.  Makes me sad.  Teens these days have so much stress on them, more than I did their age. 


I always begin and end any conversation on cannabis use I have with my son with two things:  1.  what you are doing is illegal  2.  I do not approve of using cannabis or any other drug as a minor; that said you do not  have my permission.  However, if he is looking for accurate information from a trusted source, I'm in.  I tell him I will answer any question he may have about drugs, alcohol, girls, life...  anything.  I will be as accurate and honest as I can in the hopes he will take the information and work toward making good choices for himself. 


We talk all the time.  Yesterday he asked if smoking pot is really that unhealthy.  I aswered with the most accurate information I could and told him that breathing in any combusted material (smoke) is unhealthy and could potentially cause long term health issues like respiratory desease and even cancer with prolonged use.  Burning cannabis also quickly eliminates most of its medically beneficial properties  This question was quickly followed up with "...then, what is the least harmful way to use cannabis?"  Ugh...  Ok, so after a little more research I found that vaporizing organic cannabis flower (pesticide free) seems to be one of the least harmful ways to use cannabis.  I told him edibles are off limits!  They are largely uncontrolled and can often times have imbalanced measurements in the ingredients and can lead to excessively high THC levels.  If it is made in a lab or someone's kitchen- leave it alone! 


So the next day I saw an empty package for a new vaporizer in his trash.  Heavy sigh...  My first thought was "That's it!  He's grounded!", then after more thought, I quickly realized he IS listening to me.  I certainly did not suggest a vaporizer for him, just answered his question truthfully.  In fact it, I suppose, could be seen as a little move in a good direction.  He no longer uses synthetic cannabis products, shatter, oils or waxes.  He now vaporizes organic flower only.  Yes, he is still using it; but in a less harmful way.


The ground rules stay in place:  If you are suspected of using cannabis while driving a car, your license and car keys will be taken (by me).  If you are using it in our home, with younger siblings around, same consequence.  If you are caught at school with cannabis, same consequence.


This is really hard.  He had a big school dance last night, off site at an event hall in the city.  He went with 15 of his friends.  The event did not end until 12am.  (Why do schools organize events that are off site, in the city and so late at night?  How can we parents possibly protect our kids??).  I was terrified he would get into an accident so I waited up for he and his friends to get home.  We talked in the kitchen until after 1am, then they went to bed and were up again at 5:30am to go snowboarding.  I got up before that and made a big breakfast and checked in with all of them again. 


Another sleepless night as a parent of a teenager... 







Super contributor

Re: How best to parent a teenager that uses cannabis daily.

Hey @workingdad2 please take a moment to pat yourself on the back, or give yourself a high five. Whatever is the least lame for you. Because you're doing great. It's not easy to keep being honest in the face of deep concern, especially when the honest answer isn't as terrifying as we'd like.


Your son is doing himself a favour with the vaporiser. As hard as that is to write. There's a thing we call 'bong cough' and it's this horrible, wet rattle that people get deep in their lungs after smoking bongs for too long. It's the high levels of tar (4 x greater than cigarettes) plus the water and usually bits of burnt plastic, breathed deep into the lungs. So if he's going to do it, vaporisers are the least harm.


You two are obviously close. Any chance you could leverage that just to see where he's at with his dependency? I don't mean you use his love for you as an ultimatum, it's more about letting him and you both see what kind of hold it has on him. It's often shocking for young people when they first try and stop. And they can't. At least not without a lot of effort. Or have you already tried this path?


How are things with you @Mum2017?

Super contributor

Re: How best to parent a teenager that uses cannabis daily.

Hey @workingdad2 We're talking about alcohol and drug use tonight if you want to join us.

Just click here.

Casual scribe

Re: How best to parent a teenager that uses cannabis daily.

Hello there Smiley Happy


Warning: This is long!


I know this is an older thread, but hoping someone can help. I came across it last night at 11:45pm and so much of what workingdad2 said has really resonated with me so I wanted to post here specifically to see if he could offer me some advice!


I have a 15 yr old who started smoking pot when he was 14. My husband and I discovered quite a large stash in his room this past June 2017 in a Mason jar (after months of other suspicious activity and questionable findings) hidden in his room, and let’s just say, things did not go well from there. My husband and I were very upset and there were some loud “discussions” that weekend. We grounded him for quite some time and I destroyed the cannabis and all related paraphernalia. However, after all this, he still was adamant that “we can't ground him forever, and can’t control his life”.  He outright told us that he will not stop using. But then there was a incident in July that made him question his reasons for using. He was lucky enough to be enrolled in a summer online course part of which involved a trip to NYC (we live in Canada, close to Toronto), which he was very much anticipating. Despite all of our urgent pleading to not use especially whilst away, he and his group of friends were caught smuggling alcohol into a dance and they were immediately expelled from the trip. He was heartbroken. After he was deposited back home with his tail between his legs, we had a long talk (no yelling this time! I figured the expulsion was punishment enough) and he told us he was ready to change his ways. Since then we have discovered he has been vaping, but we have been able to have open honest communication about that, and while I do not like him vaping, it is far better than the alternative. This is why what workingdad2 said makes sense to me: I would rather be able to speak openly to him about his behaviour because I fear he will just do things secretly anyway and lie about them.


I am sure you can see where this is leading... Last Friday night, I was awoken from sleep to my son and his 17 yr old brother going up to bed at 1:45am. They had been playing PS4 together. They left the hall light on so I got up to turn it off but was confronted by a curious smell. Ahhh yes, every parent of a teen knows *that* smell. I couldn’t believe it. He’s still smoking! In my house! While we are home and sleeping! Stupidly, I did not go in and confront him right then. My reasons: It was late. I would tackle it later. It was also my 50th birthday (happy birthday!) the next day and I really wanted to be able to enjoy MY day. Fast forward, when I did sit down to talk to him about it, he flatly denied it but it was basically my word against his at that point. I was dumbfounded. How could he think I am so stupid! Now, this is the part I am not so proud of... since that first incident back in June, I search through his room occasionally.  So I did it again this time, and, yes, I found a jar. It seems he now vapes his weed. I also recently legitimately discovered his password to his Google account (he gave it to me as his laptop was in for repairs and they needed it to access his computer) and I went in and looked through his photos (not so legit. Again, not proud). What I discovered was SOOOO many photos and videos of him and his friends which show obvious marijuana use. Dozens of photos of his blood-shot eyes, videos of high friends, him holding giant joints, and on and on and on. There may have been one week when he didn’t stop but it looks like he uses a lot and has done so even since the NYC incident.


So... I really really want to get to the place where workingdad2 is! I fear we destroyed any hope of an more open relationship after our first big blow-up, and now if I confess that I have snooped and that I know he lied, it will destroy trust even more! But, at the same time he has destroyed *my* trust in him by using and lying about it. It’s all a vicious circle and I am just so worried and don’t know how to take it from here. We have all made mistakes and I need to know how to undo some of the damage so that we can move forward and be in a good position to be able to support him. His health and safety is my utmost concern.