After years of being an illegal drug, four states (Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado) have now legalized the recreational use of marijuana. An additional 23 states allow its use for medicinal purposes. While teens are not permitted to use marijuana for recreation, they are now less likely than ever before to believe the drug has any adverse effects on mind and body. With recent studies reflecting this attitude, and the availability of the drug at an all-time high (no pun intended), how should you handle the situation if you find your teen is smoking?
Today's marijuana is much stronger than that of 30 years ago. In fact, today's weed tests at 20-30% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana), compared to four percent back in 1980. That means that if your teen is smoking marijuana, he or she is getting much higher much faster than people did back in the day when you were a teenager. What's more, in 2012 levels were generally about 15% THC, so the potency seems to be increasing quickly.
Addicting despite the attitude
Because of the decriminalization of marijuana and its growing acceptance by mainstream America, teens have a casual attitude towards the drug. They do not think it poses harm. However, the truth is contrary of what even most chemical dependency professionals believed not so long ago: marijuana is addicting. In fact, 17% of those who start using marijuana while young will become addicted; that number goes up to 25-30% if daily use is involved. These signs of addiction include
obsession with smoking
continued use despite negative consequences
neglect of hygiene and personal responsibilities
Additionally, marijuana addiction is proven by the distinct withdrawal syndrome that occurs when a user quits the drug. Withdrawal symptoms are both physical and psychological. Physical symptoms include abdominal pain, headache, fever, chills, and the shakes. Psychological symptoms include anxiety, irritability, depression, restlessness, and difficulty sleeping.
If you find that your teen has been smoking marijuana, you have to intervene. Even though it is legal in some states to use for fun (if one is over 21 years of age) and legal in others to use for medical purposes, it is illegal for your teen. You can purchase a drug screening test over the counter to confirm your teen's use if you aren't sure. If the drug screen is positive, you need to seek chemical dependency treatment for him or her. A drug and alcohol treatment center in your area (such as Triumph Treatment Services) can do a free assessment to determine whether or not he/she shows signs of dependency.
The key to treatment will be re-aligning your teen's attitude about marijuana with the facts of its addictive properties. Despite what he/she believes about the drug, addiction is real.