Home Education 100 Questions & Answers About Alcoholism
My teenager has a serious problem with marijuana. He constantly points out that I drink., and therefore, he doesn't see the problem with his marijuana use. What do I tell him?
First, here are some facts about marijuana and a comparison of the characteristics of marijuana and alcohol: Marijuana is the most common illegal drug used among adolescents. Even if it is the most commonly used drug, most teens have not used marijuana. Marijuana shares some of the same attributes and health consequences as tobacco. Both marijuana and tobacco are plants and are commonly smoked and consequently may damage the smoker's lungs. Marijuana and alcohol both have social and economic consequences. Alcoholics often become poverty stricken and homeless. Chronic heavy marijuana users who smoked beginning in high school may have trouble graduating because of a combination of memory loss and a lack of motivation to complete their education. Consequently, young adults who smoked marijuana and/ or drank alcohol excessively while in high school are often unemployed.
Marijuana has sedative, analgesic, anxiolytic (antianxiety), and hallucinogenic effects. It can, however, also provoke anxiety and panic attacks, as it causes a rapid heart rate. Occasionally, paranoia, including frank paranoid delusions, may occur. Additionally, it may cause dizziness, giddiness, bloodshot eyes, and difficulty with short-term memory. Finally, it can either suppress or enhance appetite and suppresses nausea and vomiting in patients suffering from serious illnesses, such as cancer or AIDS. Adolescents use marijuana to achieve a mild, relatively short period of euphoric intoxication. Although it is not as addictive as alcohol or tobacco, it can still lead to dependency or addiction problems. Like alcohol, the individual effects of the drug on each person depend on how proficient the individual is at smoking, as well as its potency, the place where it is used, what the user anticipates will happen, and what other drugs it may be mixed with.
Children at this age normally compare themselves with adults. Confronted with the teens marijuana use and the parent's alcohol use, parents may need guidance as to how to steer the discussion in the direction that is not defensive but is helpful. Table 17, which compares alcohol and marijuana, may be used to guide the discussion. It is best for parents to stick to the facts without exaggerating them.
One website called the Berkeley Parents Network provides advice in a newsletter that reviews parental comments in a weekly discussion. Parents' advice to each other ranges from ignoring the child's drug and/or alcohol use to being very punitive. The most cogent advice that one set of parents gave to the others was to keep discussions between the parents and their teens open and ongoing. It is particularly important to find out the underlying causes of why the teen feels the need to turn to drugs. Is it boredom, frustration with home and/or school, feeling isolated, peer pressure, the need for instant gratification, lack of self-confidence, misinformation, or rebellion? After the underlying cause is determined, then the teen and the parents can work together toward a solution. A perfect example of this came from one set of parents who committed themselves to abstinence (they previously drank wine with meals at home) in order to support their child's commitment to abstinence. Additionally, they entered family counseling and discovered that their teen used marijuana to relax. Consequently, healthy alternatives to marijuana for relaxation were pursued, and yoga and meditation classes were offered to learn more appropriate relaxation techniques.
Table 17 Alcohol and Marijuana Issues Compared
Table 17 Alcohol and Marijuana Issues Compared (continued)
Source: Adapted from the following sources: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2005; Anonymous Student, 2004; Focus Adolescent Services 2001; Hyde, 2006; Long, 2005; Parents, The Anti-Drug, 2006; Tips for Teens, 2003.
It is illegal to buy, sell, or possess marijuana in this country, and doing any of these activities can lead to serious legal problems. Even a small amount may lead to fines or an arrest. Besides the issue of health, this is the main reason for teens to abstain from using marijuana. At the same time, drinking wine with dinner and drinking responsibly, as an adult, is legal.
This may smack the teen as societal hypocrisy, and you need to be aware that teens are ever alert to that notion and often use it as an excuse for their continued behavior. Society as represented by the law, however, has no regard for such allegedly ethical distinctions, and part of maturity is coming to grips with that simple fact. Continued use could place the teen's future in jeopardy if caught by the police with an illegal substance.
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