“Yes, Your Kid is Smoking Pot” What Every Parent Needs to Know

by Empowering Parents
“Yes, Your Kid is Smoking Pot” What Every Parent Needs to Know

“No one is immune to the disease of addiction,” warns Katherine Ketcham, the coauthor of thirteen books, including Teens Under the Influence: The Truth About Kids, Alcohol, and Other Drugs – How to Recognize the Problem and What to Do About It and the bestselling classic Under the Influence: A Guide to the Myths and Realities of Alcoholism. For the last eight years she has worked with addicted youth and families at the Juvenile Justice Center in Walla Walla, Washington. She is also the mother of three children.  “I have extreme empathy for any parent who is dealing with this in their family.” Katherine understands the difficulties families go through when dealing with addiction firsthand. “Although I’ve written nine books on addiction, I didn’t know my own son was smoking marijuana until I found the pipe wrapped up in his gym clothes. I suspected it, but didn’t have proof, and I wanted to believe he was not involved with alcohol or other drugs. I knew it, but ignored it because I couldn’t imagine he’d do that.” After going through an inpatient treatment program, her son is currently in recovery. During a wide-ranging interview, Katherine spoke to us about teen marijuana use and drug addiction, and told us how parents can read the signs and get some help for their kids—and themselves.

“Chances are, if you think that your child has been smoking pot, he or she probably has.”—Katherine Ketcham

Tell us about what’s going on with kids and pot right now. How has the scene changed in the last 20 to 30 years? It’s said that marijuana is more potent now, for example. How is that affecting young people who smoke it?
This is why marijuana is so dangerous: the research holds that of the adolescents who enter treatment these days, the majority list marijuana—or weed, as the kids call it, as their drug of choice. Marijuana is a much more subtle drug than, say, alcohol. It gets them into the culture of the drug world, which is a perilous step because it can lead down the path to drug addiction.

Related: When your loved one has a substance abuse problem.

One of the dangers of marijuana is that it’s much stronger than it was twenty years ago. Although some people say it’s 20 times higher than it was two decades ago, that’s not true. Back then, pot, as we used to call it, contained four percent THC, now it’s about eight and a half percent—which is still a significant increase.* We also know from the research that it’s a physiologically addicting drug. Once a child gets hooked on marijuana and combines it with other drugs, the chances of getting addicted, particularly if they start using at an early age, are very high. And the age that kids first start smoking it is going down. In the eight years since I’ve worked at Juvenile Justice Center, the age of the first high was 13 and 14. Now I’d say it’s 11 and 12, and I see kids who are starting in the fourth or fifth grade. The perception that it’s not dangerous is widespread. Even most kids will agree that marijuana is a so-called “gateway drug” because their tolerance increases, leading them to move on to other drugs. Because they are using an illicit drug, they are often exposed to harder drugs and to drug dealers.

And it’s rare for young people to use marijuana by itself. Most kids, in my experience, combine marijuana and alcohol—“the regulars,” as they call them. And combining drugs can exponentially increase the risk of addiction.

Why is marijuana so popular with kids?
Marijuana is easily available, relatively cheap, and kids say that it relaxes them, it’s effective for stress, and gets rid of their anxiety. Anxiety is huge. In fact, by conservative estimates, half of young people who are addicted to chemicals—alcohol, marijuana or other drugs—also have a co-occurring mental health disorder. The research is clear as a bell on the intimate connection between chemical dependency and mental health problems, although it’s often very difficult to tell which comes first:  the drug use or the anxiety and depression.

A lot of kids who I work with at the Juvenile Justice Center tell me that they “wake and bake,” and use marijuana daily. I have a son who is in recovery, and in his case, marijuana was also his drug of choice. I’m not sure that the reasons for smoking marijuana have changed all that much, but the motivation or desire to use seems to be intensifying. Kids are telling me that their lives are out of control. They feel extremely stressed out and anxious, and I think their problems are very, very real. When I grew up, I didn’t have images of kids walking into school with guns, I didn’t see two airplanes flying into the Twin Towers. Movies, video games, music—I believe it all intensifies their stress levels. I think growing up today, unless you’re in some kind of protected environment, you’re going to see bullying at school, pressure to use, and in many cases a lack of parental oversight because in so many families both parents are working, leaving kids on their own a lot. We also can’t discount the pressure we’re putting on our children to succeed in the form of academic performance and athletics. Kids today experience enormous stress, and they crave, as we all do, peace and serenity. Drugs may promise that, at least the first few times a person uses, but in the long run they destroy any hope of peace and serenity.

Related: How to stay calm with your child, no matter what.

If you’re a parent and you smoked marijuana as a young person, do you have a leg to stand on when you talk to your kids about it? And should you lie about it if they ask you?
You have two legs! Marijuana was half as strong twenty years ago, and we know a lot more about its ill effects now. Personally, I would counsel honesty. Drugs are all about lying and dishonesty, after all, and if we’re going to get through to kids, honesty is our trump card. Tell the truth, but tell how things have changed. Give them the facts. Marijuana is stronger than it used to be and we now have research that tells us about the frightening things it does to your personality and your performance in school, sports, and every area of your life. All the neurological wiring is laid down in adolescence for judgment, reason controlling impulses, empathy, compassion, flexibility, all those more mature brain functions that help people grow into responsible adults. You throw drugs into a developing brain and you stop emotional development cold. That’s one important reason why it takes kids so long to recover from addiction, because they don’t have those skills built up, those underlying brain foundations that help them know how to build strong relationships and make reasonable, rational decisions.

I’d also tell parents, first, set aside your rationalizations (i.e., alcohol is legal and therefore “better” than “hard drugs” or making statements like, “At least he’s only smoking marijuana.”) and learn everything you can about alcohol, drugs, and drug addiction.

What are some signs that might help you identify whether your child is smoking marijuana?
I think where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Chances are, if you think that your child has been smoking pot, he or she probably has. These are the big signs: kids’ grades slip, they change their whole group of friends, they stop playing sports or going to youth group, their personalities change and they become more negative and less approachable. Don’t ignore these changes, because they are like signs on a very dangerous path. If you’re a parent and see these problems in your child, I would be proactive and talk to your child, express your concerns, and tell them that you’re keeping an eye out and that you’re not going to ignore the situation. Kids do not respect their parents when they ignore the signs staring right at them. Even as they seek independence, they need and want you to act as their guardians and guides.

Marijuana destroys motivation, it screws up memory, and it gradually destroys self-esteem. The kids I work with say that it makes them feel “lazy” or “dumb.” Their grades drop, their ambitions disappear, and their friends change. There are emotional changes too – anger and irritability increase and they often become more paranoid. Depression and suicidal thoughts can also be a by-product of smoking marijuana. Remember that while adolescence is always challenging for kids (and parents) it’s not normal for your child’s personality to change in dramatically negative ways. The more a child uses, the more you will see negative emotions and moodiness build up. You may see a gentle, smart, calm child turn into an angry person who doesn’t in any way, shape or form resemble your daughter or son, as was the case with my own child. You will see increasingly dramatic personality changes. One of the keys is to look at what’s happening to your child’s relationships. People focus on bloodshot eyes, but I focus on how drugs affect kids’ values: their love of family, self-respect and the respect they get from others…the issues that people don’t talk about.

I can tell the kids at the Juvenile Justice Center that pot affects their liver or heart, that it will change their grades, and they don’t care one bit. But if I ask, “Has marijuana affected your relationships with people?” they look at me and hang their heads and say, “Yes.” So look honestly at your relationship with your child. As parents, of course, we get confused by of the normal ups and downs of adolescence, but if you have a 12 to 14 year-old going through some unusual or serious emotional changes and relationship changes, be on your toes. Ask yourself, “Is this normal adolescence or has my child’s personality totally switched?” And ask yourself honestly, “What’s happened to my child’s relationships?”

It’s also important to be honest with yourself about your own rationalizations, fears and denials. Are you trying too hard to talk yourself out of your fears? Are you making excuses for your child? Are you protecting your child from the natural consequences of their actions? Consequences are essential—it’s how we learn. Take a deep breath and allow your children to experience the consequences of their actions and decisions.

Related: Oppositional, defiant child?

What should a parent’s role be when they suspect their child is using drugs?
When you suspect your child might be using drugs, the faster you can jump in and be authoritative, decisive and strong, the better. You have to be like steel with this disease. When they are using alcohol or other drugs on a regular basis, kids can be incredibly manipulative and they will lie to your face. The way they can shift blame around so it’s your fault is unbelievable. They are masters of deception. The fact of the matter is, they have to lie if they are going to protect their ability to continue to use. Lying, deceit, cheating and dishonesty are part and parcel of this disease—not because the addicted person is a liar or a cheat by nature, but because the addicted brain needs drugs in order to function “normally.” Lying is one way to escape detection. Always remember: for an addicted person, the poison, and by that I mean withdrawal, is the antidote. What hurts the brain also makes the brain feel better. What hurts us in the short run heals us in the long run.

And remember, you are the parent. Your first role is to support and protect your child. You know they have a drug problem and it’s destroying their lives and you know if they have money, they might buy drugs. Cut the money off. Guard your wallet. If your child has a part-time job and you have good reason to believe they’re using the money to buy drugs, then you say, “We’re taking that money you earn from your job and putting it into an account for you so you can save it.” Let your kids suffer the consequences of their decisions.

By the way, if you think your child might be taking drugs, I personally don’t think it’s unreasonable to search their room. We’re afraid to use our power to impinge on their freedom and independence, but if they’re in trouble with drugs, they’re going to lose their freedom and independence and maybe their life. Check their rooms, and in places you’d never imagine. Check wall sockets, CD covers, look in their shoes, and take every bit of medication in your medicine cabinet and put it some place under lock and key. That’s everything—pain pills, heart medication, sleeping pills, anti-depressants. Believe me, kids will walk into their friend’s houses, take a few pills and see what happens—it doesn’t matter what the pills are. Even if your own child doesn’t have a drug problem, their friends might, so I would advise that you keep all prescription medication in a safe, inaccessible place in your house as a matter of course.

What should you do if your child is addicted to drugs?
There is not enough compassion out there for parents whose kids are addicted. You simply can’t judge what they’re going through if you don’t know it. For those of us who are going through this, you face your child’s addiction every day, and you think, “Will he come back tonight, and will he be alive tomorrow?” You’re half crazed by fear and anxiety. And you’re fighting something that is seemingly so much smarter than you are. Addiction is the wiliest disease that there is. It’s intense because it’s a disease that literally rewires the brain. The addiction says, “Give me more drugs, I have to have more or you will go through pain.” The addict knows the pain of not using (withdrawal) and in time they become a prisoner of their addiction. Research also shows that if you’re addicted to one drug, especially at a young age, then you’re brain is wired to become addicted to any addictive drug.

Keep in mind that you’re not your child’s friend, you’re their parent. You have to stand firm. Realize that your child has a disease, because it will allow you to be objective and not take their anger personally. This will help you be more effective in your efforts to get them some help. Remember, this person who is screaming, “To hell with you, I hate you, you’ll never understand me” is under the influence of drugs. Your enemy is not your child, it’s the addiction that has taken over their life, mind, heart and spirit.

I would advise parents to always approach the problem with love first. I know it’s really, really hard, but say, “I love you so much and I don’t know how I’d live without you, and that’s why I’m grounding you or shutting off your bank account or taking your car away. You may hate me, but I can’t watch you destroy yourself. I’ll be part of your recovery, but I will not be part of your addiction. But I will do everything in my power to help you get better.”

How should you go about seeking treatment for your child?
One of the heartbreaking things for parents is they often don’t know where to go when their child is using drugs. If you can, find a doctor who’s knowledgeable about addictions. Work with him or her to find the best treatment center you can for your child. The first step will be to have a chemical dependency assessment done. Your doctor should be able to direct you to a reputable institution. By the way, if you’re going to the doctor with your child, call them ahead of time and say, “If I were to bring in my child who is addicted to alcohol and marijuana, what would your approach be?” Some doctors tell parents they will not deal with addicted kids, or they may tell the child that smoking marijuana is not a problem as long as they keep it under control. Believe it or not, this happened to me when I took our son to the doctor to talk about his marijuana use, and it has happened to other parents I know.

If it’s decided that your child should undergo treatment, there are both inpatient and outpatient programs your child can attend. You can also check with ASAM, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, an arm of the American Medical Association, to find out about good treatment centers. Most centers don’t specialize in treating adolescents, but there are some that do. When you contact them, you need to ask, “Who do you have on staff who understands adolescent addictions?” And, if at all possible, try to get a mental health evaluation—but only after your child has been in treatment for several weeks. Addiction creates its own mental health issues, so you need to wait until the drugs are out of the system before you can get an accurate assessment. A big word—a shout—of caution: you can’t get a child sober and then release them back into the community without putting some structure into place. If the treatment is only 28 days, which is the standard inpatient stay, make sure that when your child is released that they will be attending AA or NA meetings, going to a regular support group, and meeting with a counselor or case manager. Talk to teachers, family members and friends and ask for their support. Educate them about addiction and recovery. A child who has all those supports in place has a good chance to stay clean and sober. Without that support, about 80 percent of kids relapse. During recovery, it’s of vital importance that your child gets into a good support group, where they talk about what’s happened to them and how they can become the person they want to be.

There are two reasons to seek help as early as you can. One of them is that it will enable you to find out what’s happening with your child by having a professional step in and help you. Find someone who can see the problems quickly and who understands adolescent addiction and co-occurring mental health problems. The second reason is to get help for yourself. Because you can’t do this alone—you’ll go crazy. Try to find a support group in your area. Contact your local hospitals and community center. In my case, I started a support group in our town to help our family deal with the fall-out from our son’s addiction, and it continues to be a lifeline for us as we reach out to others who are going through what we went through.

Related: Life over the influence.

What can you say to kids before they ever start smoking?
I think you need to teach the facts at a really early age, because they are exposed to drugs at such an early age now. I think it’s important to talk to them about it in elementary school where kids are exposed to inhalants – substances such as nail polish, gasoline, and permanent markers. Very young kids are inhaling or huffing those substances and risking permanent brain damage. That’s a very serious issue. You have to find a way to talk to them in an age-appropriate way without scaring the pants off them. I’m a great believer in stories. You can say, “I just heard this story [about a family or youth in trouble with drugs] and it made me so sad.” If you can, say it with love and explain it in terms of another child. I think stories and testimonials of kids in recovery are good. If I ruled the world, I would start talking to kids in first grade–they hear these things already, so getting the straight scoop helps them.

There are ways to educate kids with love and compassion for people who are suffering – and that’s what we have to remember. Addicted people need our support and compassion. Always. No matter how many times they relapse. They need us to reach out to them with love and understanding but also with a firm grasp of what needs to be done to get them well again.

I would also say that talking about values with your child is paramount. Ask your child “What is honesty, what is trust, what does forgiveness mean?” Have a solid, steady ritual where you focus on what it means to be human, what it means to be good, what it means to do bad things. Tell your children, “We all make mistakes, but do the next right thing.” 99 percent of the kids I work with at the Juvenile Justice Center say they have been called bad kids. I say, “Don’t let anyone put that label on you. We all do bad things, but do the next right thing.”


*The report from the University of Mississippi's Potency Monitoring Project said the average THC content in seized marijuana samples was 8.5 percent, up from about 4 percent in 1983.

Peggy Moss  

Katherine Ketcham is the coauthor of thirteen books, including Teens Under the Influence: The Truth About Kids, Alcohol, and Other Drugs – How to Recognize the Problem and What to Do About It with Nicholas Pace, M.D. (Ballantine, 2003); Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption (Viking, 2006) with William Cope Moyers; and the bestselling classics Under the Influence: A Guide to the Myths and Realities of Alcoholism with James Milam (Bantam, 1983) and The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning with Ernest Kurtz (Bantam, 1992). Over 1.5 million copies of her books are currently in print. For the last eight years she has worked with youth and families at the Juvenile Justice Center in Walla Walla, Washington where she lives with her husband, Patrick Spencer, a geology professor. They have three children: Robyn, 26; Alison, 24; and Benjamin, 21.

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Elisabeth Wilkins is the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of one son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.


Usually by the time parents are savvy that their child is using drugs, the problem is severe. Doing an after rehab program,or even 28 day program is not sufficient at all. It took a long time for the child to get addicted,so be prepared it will take at least a year of professonal help to get them out of it. They need to be extracted from their surroundings, and stripped psychologically to the beginning for them to understand why they started in the first place. We sent our son to a therapeutic wilderness program, suggested by an educational consultant, that lasted 11 weeks. Then an aftercare program of 10months, yep 10months with professional help "seals the deal". The sad thing is that in hindsight the clues were all over, from school, home, friends, and all can get blurred or camouflaged with their facebook or similar, cell phone with texting, etc etc. their subculture that we as parents have allowed them use.

Comment By : Mom25

Please clarify your statement that marijuana is physiologically addicting, as everything I've read implies the opposite. At what point does "use" become "addiction?" We took our 17 year old to a highly-regarded teen drug specialist in our area and he didn't recommend sending him to a treatment center, and, in fact, didn't see real value in our continuing to bring him to counseling sessions. (Already flushed the pot and took his access to $$ away.)

Comment By : Valerie

The key to prevention is education and honest open relationships with your children. If they know how to handle a situation that may arise concerning drugs, they will know how to respond and how to avoid using. Educate them on long term and short term effects. My son and I are able to talk about most things. He is 13 and has already expressed concerns regarding some of his friends who drink alcohol or who have already tried marijuana. Do not be niave to today's world, chances are your child has already been exposed.

Comment By : scoobydoo

My daughter now 17, has been smoking pot and doing other things for many years now, at one point she was hooked on cocaine and I didn't even know it. She hangs out with a terrible gang of kids that their parents don't really care. Her probation officer has given her chance after chance and my daughter continues to run. For over a year now I've tried to get my daughter into treatment and that is were the system becomes very frustrating, you have to go to this step, then this step, and this test has to be done, on and on. What happens if in the mean time my daughter OD's on whatever drug of choose this week. I have been in and out of court of 3 years now, I've paid more court fees and drug class fees then I'd like to mention. What I wonder is what is this world coming to when our kids begin to control us and their friends (loosers) become more important than they own family. Family values I struggle just to get out of bed every day.

Comment By : Ms. B

The only way someone will quit using drugs is if they decide to do it. All the treatment centers in the world will not help unless the user has decided they are ready to quit. That is the truth and you need to get it through your head. Sometime it is fast sometimes it takes a long time and sometimes it doesn't happen ever. Yes, you need to love them but you also need to quit fooling yourself. Doctors and clinics and treatment centers won't get you kid off drugs. The only person that can get you kid off drugs in your son or daughter. All the talking all the crying all the money can't change them only the user can decide they have had enough and they are going to quit. I have never seen a treatment center work unless the drug users wanted to quit.

Comment By : Doug

This article came in just the right time. Im struggeling with information my daughter brought me about one of her friends. Her friend told her that she smoked pot and asked my daughter if she did. As of now, thank God my daughter told her no and she didn't want to try it. However, I am just tormented by the fact that I know this information about this child and don't know if I shoud tell her mother. Can you please give advice, if I should tell this girls mother.

Comment By : Dont know what to do

This article came in just the right time. Im struggeling with information my daughter brought me about one of her friends. Her friend told her that she smoked pot and asked my daughter if she did. As of now, thank God my daughter told her no and she didn't want to try it. However, I am just tormented by the fact that I know this information about this child and don't know if I shoud tell her mother. Can you please give advice, if I should tell this girls mother.

Comment By : Dont know what to do

My 16-yr-old son has been smoking pot for 2 yrs, admits it, and refuses to stop, and has escalated to occasional use of illegally-obtained Vicodin. Social services,child protective services, the school, law enforcement refuse to intervene unless he is caught using or in his possession. We found drugs in his gymbag. He lives with his mother (my ex-wife), and she is a cocaine user who will not take him to treatment. My son refuses to speak to me over this issue. I am very worried about him but do not not what else to do.

Comment By : Have no idea what to do next

What do you do when your drug addicted teen runs away, lies to social workers, claims abuse, uses the parents as the reason why they are using drugs, AND the social worker believes the drug addicted teen, counsels that it is an invasion of privacy to search the child's room, and generally takes actions which allow the drug abuse to go on in foster care?

Comment By : Tired Mom

I would like to comment on the contention by Ms. Ketcham (based on the University of Mississippi's Potency Monitoring Project) that the THC content of pot has only roughly doubled (from 4% to 8.5%) in the past 20 years. Her strict reliance on this data does not take into account the fact that careful cross-fertilization has progressively increased the content of THC to "more than" 20% in some varieties found today! And in my home state of California these strains of pot are more prevalent than not. That said, as a parent with a teen severely addicted to pot, I want to recommend to all parents reading this that they buy the BEST book available on the subject of teen pot use and what to do about it called: "Marijuana-What's a Parent to Believe" by Dr. Timmen Cermak. Dr. Cermak is a Standford educated addiction specialist who was the chairman of the California Society of Addiction Medicine's task force on medical marijuana from 1996-2000.

Comment By : Irvin

Dear Tired Mom: What you do when the social workers don't believe you is you keep on keeping on, you don't miss a beat, soon they will see that the child is lying. I had the similar problem with a Probation Officer who didn't believe me but believed my daughter, I was accused of smoking pot, drinking etc. none of which I participated in but they believed my daughter 17 who had had a drug problem for 2 years. Well, I want you to know that the PO and I are actually able to talk now that she has stopped judging me. Make a call to the persons supervisor, ask that person for suggestions, call the Judge, leave messages with the social workers filling them in on what your child is up to, communicate with them whether you want to or not. Maintain the best attitude that you possibly can no matter what's going on, try to keep the emotion out of the picture, especially when in front of the social worker, what you do when they leave is no ones business. Good luck and hang in there, we can't choose our children we can only help them up to a certain point. Ms. B

Comment By : Ms. B aka hellnback

Your article is so correct.My daughter changed 4 years ago, this has been a terrible battle. Everything about anxiety is so real in her life. She will be 18 in a few months and I do not know what to do. Therapy, gentle love, tough love nothing works. In the state of PA I can't sent her to rehab after 14. She has to consent, and she lies about her usage. She has lost many jobs, she goes to work stoned. She really can't keep friend has been through depression and everything you described. I hope many parents read this. the despair I feel is great, it is hard to watch her life crumble. MAy Gos bless all parents.

Comment By : Commer

My husband and I found pot in our 14 year old son's room. We now drug test him at least once a week. We bought the test on www.drugtestyourteen.com. This has been an excellent tool. It gives him an excuse to use with his friends -- "no thanks, my parents test me"-- and it gives us the assurance we need that he is not using. We are rebuilding our trust. Twice last weekend he called after an hour with his friends to be picked up immediately -- they were using and he didnt want to be around them. Now he is beginning to accept what we have already told him - he needs to find a new group to be with.

Comment By : Grace

I do not agree that honesty is the best answer when telling your child whether you tried marijauna or not when you were younger. Teenagers are not always rational and rational explanations do not always work. This is especially so if they are using drugs. They would just rationalize that, hey my mom and dad did it and are okay, so I should be okay to use it too. These are our kids not our best friends. You also would not tell you children about you sex life if you had one as a teenager.

Comment By : Lisa from Ottawa

I agree totally about not admitting to pot smoking as a teen. It's not going to help anything. You cannot be your child's friend. We donot reprimand our friends. Most everything said in this forum I do agree with. Drugs are horrible and very scary. God bless us all, and protect our children.

Comment By : Lala

* Hello Valerie: Let me first say that your experience with the drug specialist is not at all unusual – many counselors and physicians are unaware of marijuana’s addictive potential (I know that is hard to believe, but it is true). The research is clear and unequivocal – marijuana is a physiologically addictive drug causing both tolerance and withdrawal symptoms (the two hallmarks of addiction). Young people are especially vulnerable to marijuana’s addictive effects, especially if they start using before age 15 and if they combine drugs – which most kids do (alcohol and marijuana is the most common combination). See pages 115-119 of my book “Teens Under the Influence” – and for more recent research updates, check out jointogether.org or the NIDA website, drugabuse.gov As a parent, my advice is to educate yourself and then go gently but firmly into the world and try to educate others. Misinformation and lack of knowledge are our greatest enemies as parents and citizens who care about our children. Take good care.

Comment By : Katherine Ketcham

* Dear "Don't know what to do": When it comes to keeping our children safe, always do whatever it takes to help each other out as parents. I would let the other parent know about this. Using pot is dangerous and illegal. Tell the other parent, “I have learned from my daughter that your daughter may be using pot.” You might also say, “Please let me know if there is anything I can do.” After you have told the other parent, tell your daughter that you have called her friend's parent out of concern for her friend because smoking pot is so unsafe, and that you want her friend to get the help and support she needs.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

* Hi Everyone. I wanted to clarify my ideas about sharing your own experiences with marijuana, alcohol, and/or other drugs with your child. While I strongly believe it is important to be honest with your children, I do not want to give the impression that parents should “tell all.” Adolescent drug users are masters at switching the subject and making their drug use YOUR problem – so parents need to work hard to keep the focus on the child’s behavior and attitude and not get sidetracked into offering details about their own drug experiences. I agree with Dr. Drew’ Pinsky’s assessment on this matter. I hope this clarifies my point about honesty with your children. By the way, theantidrug.com website is also a terrific resource for parents.

Comment By : Katherine Ketcham

My Son is 1 month away from his eighteenth birthday. I have been aware of his marijuana use for about a year or so. He was able to convince me that he only smoked once or twice a month. I verbalized my complete disapproval sighting that this was dangerous behavior that could potentially lead to other even more dangerous drug use. I have also been keenly aware that I can not control his choices when he is out in the world without my supervision. For the past 6 months he has had use of a car, as well as a cell phone. My occasional "snooping" on his cell phone text and voice mails has educated me to just how serious the situation is. Many of the content relates to others seeking drugs, both marijuana and now...... cocaine. I have confronted my Son, informing him of my knowledge but not devulging my source. I took the car and phone away. I then stated that I was no longer willing to keep my blinders on. This home will be a drug free zone. My conditions: You will agree to random testing, you will begin counseling, you will continue to work at your part- time job (scheduling your hours to coincide with my ability to transport you or you will get yourself there). You agree to these conditions OR you will make alternate living arrangements. "I do not approve of drug use and certainly not the selling of drugs to others" I have to be clear on this subject. I began and ended this confrontation by telling him how much I loved him and my willingness to do anything in my power to help him succeed in life . I would support him with any and all attempts to do positive things that will promote his ability to lead a happy and healthy life. And /But I was not willing to help/enable him to sabatage his life. His initial response was that he would "always smoke pot and he would never go to counseling". He rose from his seat and stated "Well, I guess I need to go pack my stuff". I informed him that I was sad and disappointed and he needed to take a step back to think about what I have tried to express. He is to stay living with me up to his 18th birthday and then step into his decision. He has one year left of High School and reports every intention of graduating. Do you feel my stance has been too harsh?

Comment By : Mom

Dear Mom - you wrote my story with my son - also 17 and due to turn 18 in 3 months. Same exact conversation - phone and car are gone. If he falls behind in school and does not graduate, that is his choice - we make every effort to offer help with homework, help with getting into counseling, substance abuse treatment - etc. He chooses not to accept. To have him put in a rehab center or other counseling requires me to petition the court to require him to do so if he in unwilling - this is from the various facilities I contacted. As much as I hate seeing my son go down this path, the support group I found for loved ones of users has been very helpful in showing me how to start removing myself from his use and abuse. It's hard - especially when people judge and think you didn't do enough or weren't hard enough - but when it moves into addiction that goes beyond what discipline and consequences at home can fix. It then becomes an issue of that person - especially when they move into adulthood - to make the decision that they want to stop, get help and change their life. Without that desire, treatment programs aren't going to have the results the parents want. So, no, I don't think you are being too harsh. Get support for yourself, learn to detach from the adult person your child is becoming - still love your child, but remember you don't have to be their personal doormat while they continue along the path of self-destruction. I hope things get better for you soon - I understand where you are and how hard it is to deal with.

Comment By : jennablon

my moms accusing me of smoking pot because i have 2 classes of gym class in a row and when i come home i am very tired and fall asleep around 6:30 or so. any advice?

Comment By : saiyanwarrior143

am looking for help when i read these coments for me teen son is hard to accept that some parents are comfortable or beleive that childrens cant change just because they comment so. We have to realize they are under the influence!and parents are just simply tired of it i would only have positive changes and comment of parent that being succesfully done it. is hard enough living in these situation on daily basis. As a mother i will never give up on my son .

Comment By : BETTy

I tried to have my son drug tested through our doctor's office last year. They said they could not without his consent. I live in California and everyone else at the labs and such say the doctor's office is wrong. I don't need a test now as I searched his room and found a treasure trove of drug paraphenalia. Now I must confront him. The problem is his dad will want him to go live with him but won't stay on top of searches and random drug testing. How do you get your kid to buy in to getting help? If he doesn't want help, he will never see the benefits and it will all be a waste. The only thing I can think of is taking away all privileges and having him earn everything that is noneseential back, like phones, tv, computer etc. Also, how do you get your kid away from the present drug oriented group he is in without moving schools?

Comment By : CA Mom

My son is 20 years old. Almost an adult but not mature in his actions. He has had ADD since first grade and takes Concerta for that on and off. A couple of nights ago, after visiting his so-called friend, we came home and really smelled bad. I suggested I wash the clothes he had on and found a very small ziplock plastic bag. Knowing that it could hold some drugs I asked him about it and he brushed off my question. I then went into his bedroom and in a matter of seconds found two small filled packets with pot. I asked how many we bought and he said 2, but we think it was 3 because our truck smelled very bad as well. We spoke to him about the dangers but we does not take us seriously. We got rid of the pot. How can I get him to take us seriously? A day later he tore up a website printout that I gave him to read about the psychological/physical/criminal ramifications of this drug.

Comment By : Chris

I was one of the children the article talks about i started smoking pot and drinking at 13 and dealing at 14 and i have personally experienced much of what the article talks about and know exactly what weed can do. I was always in the top classess and excelled at every aspect of life but i have wasted too many years on weed. My advice is that if your child is going to knowingly and willingly do something that they no is bad for them then something is wrong. I started smoking and mixing with that crowd because i hated every minute spent in my home, things were unbearable so i would rather go to a mates house and just get high and be happy. It was a bad choice but i didnt have another one. I find the worst thing a parent can do is to blame all the problems in a childs life on drugs. Drugs aren't to blame they are a symptom of larger domestic issues that need to be dealt with and being too proud to admit that you may be partially responsible will only alienate the child further. Take responsibility for your actions as a parent and dont try to blame everything on drugs you need to get your kids off drugs but blaming problems in a childs life on drugs will only insult the child especially if the problems started before the drugs and the child will never take what you say about drugs seriously or realise the dangers because they will know what the real problem is and your words will be worthless, a child will not listen to someone they have no respect for. I attempted suicide at 11 but hey i didnt smoke pot until i was 13 yet everyone blamed my problems on drugs evn though i had been quite vocal about problems well before i knew what weed was. Did the pot make me suicidal or did the fact that i hated my life so much that i was willing to kill myself mean that i was willing to do something to take my mind of things even though i new it wasn't good for me?? Weed is addictive not like real drugs but it is still addictive no one vomits or has any serious withdrawals but people become anxious and irritable and sometimes aggressive. The thing about articles like this are that they are written by people from nice happy familys that got to go to college and who will never be able to understand drugs at all let alone what life is like as a child who is alone. Its easy to judge the less fortunate but could you do it? Could you survive the life they live. I know i almost couldn't but now that im an adult im glad im still here because im not vulnerable anymore and i can take whatever life throws at me ive been through worse. An article about drugs written by someone that hasnt been addicted is like asking deaf man his opinion about a song thats on the radio. I say parents need to take responsibility and realise if a child is taking drugs something is wrong. The flowers won't wilt if the gardner is skilled. When getting over addiction the hardest thing is finding something else to do and coping with the boredom. If all youve done is sit around smoking pot since you were a child then its the only life you know and building another one can be difficult. Sport helps and so do other hobbies like music. Keep busy and before you know it you wont even think about pot. Parents who say things like its his choice or blame there child dont realise that as a parent it is there job to teach there child he isnt born with a moral compass and a head full of wisdom, he needs guidance, love, support and to be taught. people like you sicken me. If your child fails then you failed your child. Is it the smartest kid or the most talented that succeeds? or is it perhaps the one with the best parents. The one given the most opportunitys and loved and nurtured the most, the one that is protected and allowed to grow in a healthy environment. Look around you and look at your adult friends and then think about the families they came from. They say a person is what they are because of 2 things nature and nurture. You are resposible for there nature since you gave them your dna and i dont know about the rest of you but i would say a parent is also responsible for the nurture in my opinion. If you didnt want to be there for your child and help them rather than using weed as a scapegoat when times get tough perhaps you werent responsible enough to be a parent and should have kept your legs shut. If your child doesnt listen to you its because they dont respect you. You can earn respect, so go do it instead of saying poor me why doesnt my kid listen to me. Maybe you should listen to him or her. Just some advice i wish someone had given my parents ten years ago. Parents who blame there child are like sculptors who blame there sculpture for being crappy when it is what it is because thats how the sculptor sculpted it. your child is the way it is because that is the way you parented it. I got over drugs on my own but it would have been a lot quicker and easier if i had a family to help me change my life. I wouldnt have ever needed to get over addiction if i had a real family in the first place.

Comment By : mattt

* Dear Chris: James Lehman recommends that we approach the problem by looking at the behaviors and not the attitude. You will likely get very frustrated if your focus is to have your child see things as you do. Instead, keep requiring a certain behavior from him. Just as you did, continue to not allow drugs to be in your home. You may also state that he does not have permission to use drugs in your vehicles and if they smell bad, he loses access to the cars for a period of time. If you suspect drug use is an ongoing problem, I would recommend that he seek substance abuse treatment before he can have access to the vehicles again. Finally, the best way to influence your child's attitude is by role modeling your actions and statements that drug use is dangerous and not tolerated in your home. I hope this is helpful--please let us know how it goes with your son.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

For Ca Mom, I too live in CA and asked my older son's (20) former pediatrician, who also confirmed that their office could not drug test a minor without their consent. We as parents can sign and allow our child to be given their childhood vaccinations, or in CA a minor can seek an abortion without parental consent, but we can't have our child drug tested? Crazy! Our kids went to private school where they drug tested and now if they want to live under our roof, they have to go through random drug testing that we purchased on-line.

Comment By : CAMom

To Mattt: I read your comments and wondered why you never said why you were so unhappy at home. My child also has a problem with pot and started about the same time you did. He is adopted so he doesn't have our DNA and he was brought up in a home that respects and practices AA and Al-Anon principles. Furthermore, when asked why he got into this stuff he gives no answer. How can you blame a parent when you never say what the problem was to begin with? In our case, our son has everything, has been adored by everyone in our family, has been brought up with moral values, honesty, and has reasonable limits. What more can we do? We have had him in every program and he is scheduled to go into rehab soon for about 4 months (he's 14). He is still in denial of having a problem no matter how much time we spend with him, no matter how much we talk to him, no matter how much we ask him why. Drug use is a symptom of other problems, but at this time I don't know what those problems are. When a child refuses to talk about anything and blames everything in life on others, there is definitely a problem with that. No one forces anybody to use drugs or drink alcohol. It is a choice. Why that choice is made is the important thing. I'm sorry you feel that your parents let you down, but the time to talk about it was before the drug use. As parents, my husband and I are totally frustrated. Our son has no goals, no interests other than computer and cellphone. He doesn't care about school, getting in trouble, etc. He used to play sports for many years and we have offered every type of thing that he would be interested in. As one who married an alcoholic who is now sober, I'm sorry - it is not my fault. I love my child and will do anything for him, but I will not enable him. To get respect, one has to give it, and unfortunately I did not see much in your comment. I hope you find peace.

Comment By : Linda

Matt, It's obvious that your issues stem from anger, and you should try to address this issue first. Noone forced you to start talking drugs, you took it upon yourself. Stop blaming your parents and start taking reponsibility for your actions. You mention respect in your monologue...well reread what you wrote. If you want respect, you need to earn it, and you can start by showing some respect to others. If you want to be treated like an adult, then you need to start acting like one. Good luck to you.

Comment By : John

My son just came to me this weekend and told me he has been smoking pot. I asked him how many times he has done this he said only a couple. I have talked to him about doing drugs like i'm sure every parent has. He is only 14 the only thing I could think to tell him was he had the rest of his life to make mistakes but don't make ones like this, I really didn't know what to say. I asked him to stop it will only hurt him in the long run. In my situation he lives with his father who doesn't pay attention to him and sits infront of a computer when he comes home and doesn't give the child the attention he needs. What am I to do as a parent when I can't control the situation at his fathers house and know it would come down to going to court to get custody if this doesn't stop. ..Someone please tell me I said the right thing or give me some advise I feel like a fish out of water.

Comment By : Patty

* Dear Patty: I think you said great things to your son. As you said, you have talked to him about drugs in the past. You gave him good, serious advice and said “don’t make mistakes like this one.” This is serious business. Kids who use drugs should be evaluated to see what kind of treatment they need. Pot is harmful to a teen in and of itself and is usually a gateway drug, leading to other drug use. I think it’s interesting that he told you about this. You may be right that the best recourse is the get him into your home so that you can assist him. Katherine Ketcham was interviewed for a great article here in EP. She knows what she’s talking about and gives great tips on what to do next: http://www.empoweringparents.com/marijuana-drug-addiction-and-teens.php Best of luck, Patty, in this really difficult situation. Stay strong.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

i have smoked weed for a year now and its got me into a lot of trouble i started stealing cars, rippin my friend off and bein a freeloader also the year i have been smoking reality didnt seem real to me anymore everythin just seemed like a dream.Now i havent smoked since october 31 2009 and reality is coming back to me everythin you mentioned about personality changing and new group of friends is all true, about me atleast, oh and also im 14 years old......

Comment By : Mike

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