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Teens & Marijuana

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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Teens & Marijuana


Questions about Young Teens & Pre-Teens Questions about Older Teens Questions about Adults Using Marijuana around Teens Related Pages

Questions about Young Teens & Pre-Teens


Freshman buying marijuana

Feb 2013

We recently found out our daughter and her friend bought marajuana from a boy at their school. We got this info from snooping on her laptop and reading her messages. We are unsure how to proceed as her friend has the goods, we haven't had any reason to believe they have smoked it and we don't want to out ourselves and our snooping. This is great source of intelligence on what is going on. But then it makes it hard to discuss. We had a good conversation with her about her friend choices and how we suspect this guy is dealing and trouble, though she denied it all. We don't know if we should share the info with the friend's parents. Some say they wouldn't handle it well and not would backfire on my daughter. Please advise on kids smoking weed at this age. Is this common? And how to handle? Do we talk with other parents? It seems too young to be dabbling in this. I can't stop thinking about it and am unsure how to proceed. Any advice welcome, thank you. Concerned Freshman Parents


I feel your worry for your daughter. Fortunately it does not looks like she is addicted - yet. I realize marijuana is acceptable to lots of people, and is not ''addictive'' if one starts out as an adult. However, if starting as a teen, the risk/probability of marijuana becoming a gateway to more dangerous, risky behaviors is much worse. Drug addiction is HUGE. No one this age should be doing marijuana and I wish middle and high schools would do more because they only have this captive audience for so long- have dogs sniff out lockers/backpacks randomly, take action - require counseling or even a brief stint in a jail cell or visit to one of those detox centers, so they realize the severity of smoking weed. So as not to single out your daughter or anyone in particular, somehow get the school or the local police dept to do a dog-sniffing-sweep of lockers/backpacks just to let the kids know someone is watching and cares. Love our kids too much
A friend was in a similar position and found the book ''When Things Get Crazy with Your Teen'' by Bradley to be really helpful. good luck
I urge you not to consider whether using marijuana is common behavior in Berkeley as a 9th grader or otherwise. You need to consider that this is your daughter and you want her to be successful in life. If you read the next post in the last newsletter, it was about a boy who is addicted and his life is rapidly sliding downhill. You want to nip her experimental behavior in the bud (no pun intended) before it becomes a bigger problem. If it were my daughter, I would want another parent who knows she is buying marijuana (or any other drug) to contact me immediately. I would respect the other parent, not let it cause a problem in my children's relationship. In fact,this very scenario did occur when I was in high school and it was a great wake-up call. I have been a high school Health Science teacher and have run tobacco peer-education groups. Marijuana is addictive and does damage growing brains, despite what others may tell you. Also, the younger someone starts using any addictive substance, the more chance that they will become a long term user. My mom scared the **** out of me by telling me she knew I had marijuana in the house and that she was going to call the police and have them arrest me. I had 5 minutes to get it and flush it down the toilet. Result: first and last time I ever bought any illegal drug. Good luck. Time for a serious talk with your daughter in your best parent voice. It is better to use scientific facts rather than emotion in this kind of discussion (in general). There are many good on-line resources you can consult. Check with your local librarian on other resources. Get your daughter involved in enough activities that she has no time for pot. Sports are a great outlet for adrenaline. BHS also has a great peer education program connected with their clinic.
I really, really hope you do not get negative feedback for ''spying.'' I did the same for my son and many parents (those who are lazy, in my opinion) ostracized me for breaking my son's trust. Well, what I found out saved my son. I believe it is the parent's job to get the child through high school safely, whether the child ''likes'' you is least important. Is marijuana legal in California at that age? If not, isn't your child or her friend breaking the law? Is there an activity your child loves--sports, dance, art--anything that you can help her put full energy into? There are kids who do not smoke pot or drink, she could find them in an activity and the effort and money you spend on that would be the best money you ever spent. Success in something outside of high school gives kids the self confidence they need so they don't have to drink or do drugs to be comfortable with themselves. The story that followed your question is the best warning of all. Please do what you feel is right in your heart and don't let others question your actions. You are being a good parent. Concerned Mom
I think some have an exaggerated impression of the prevalence of marijuana experimentation at BHS. I asked my daughter (a junior) about this. Her guess was that 70% have tried it, and 25% use it sometimes. However when I asked about her learning community, BIHS, her estimate was that 50% have tried it and very few have used it more than a few times. Among the friends she spends time with very few have tried it. This is a skewed sample in that her friends are mostly very strong students and involved in various BHS activities, and are mostly in the middle of the Berkeley income distribution. My impression, which is just that, is that drugs are more of a problem for students with more spending money, and also with more time on their hands/less supervision. My daughter's impression is that people who are preoccupied with ''popularity'' are more likely to try marijuana or alcohol.

Having tried marijuana goes up with age, so it seems particularly serious that your 9th grader bought marijuana, which is very different from trying it when offered some. My suggestions would be to help your child find productive activities, increase after-school supervision, cut down on spending money, and insist on therapy/drug counseling. anon


One of the responses to the initial query mentioned that the schools need to get more involved in enforcing drug use restrictions and suggested getting the school and the police to bring in drug-sniffing dogs. I am sorry to say (from personal experience) that that is highly unlikely to happen in Berkeley. About 8 months ago, on a weekday morning, my teenager (16) and a friend (15), were found smoking weed by Berkeley P.D. While the officers did take them to the police station, they did not arrest them. When contacted by the police, both the other teen's parent and I (in separate calls) begged the officer to detain our children in jail overnight, and we were told ''It is our POLICY not to arrest for mere use and possession.'' My teen and I live in Oakland, and OPD has the same attitude. It is extremely frustrating to deal with that kind of institutional refusal to treat underage drug use seriously. While both teens did face consequences at home, they came away with the feeling -- no, the knowledge -- that they got away with something and could again. Which they did, with increasing frequency. So the solution to early drug use will have to come from beyond the schools. The police are not allies in this. Disillusioned

14-year-old using marijuana for medical reasons?

Oct 2010

If a 14 year old is using weed responsibly for medical issues, is it ok? What if it is helping him with major anxiety and ADD? What if I know he is not doing it to get stoned but just to feel and be more functional. What if? Regardless..... I've noticed a huge positive change within him. Better than Ritalin? In this case, much more helpful. At what age is medicinal marijuana appropriate? If at all? Both have a stigma but any opinions are welcome on this very sensitive issue. j.


Please do your research on this one, because I don't think you have all the information you need to make a decision. I can see how getting high would relax a hyperactive kid, but then, so would tobacco or alcohol, and you probably wouldn't consider that.

Try googling 'cannabis psychosis' or 'cannabis brain development.' When you google for this, you will find a lot of websites whose main purpose is to promote cannabis so don't pay much attention to those. Look for mainstream medical and scientific websites that cite actual published studies. You will learn that heavy cannabis use can interfere with brain development in teenagers. A number of studies have also shown that high THC content in marijuana can trigger psychosis in otherwise ''normal'' people.

Also please research ADD. Read about the brain chemistry differences in people with ADD, and how Ritalin addresses them. There is a lot of new research on this. Ritalin has been used since the 1940's to treat ADD, has been studied in depth, and is considered very safe for use in kids and teens. As far as I know, there have not been any studies showing that cannabis use in young teens is safe, nor that cannabis is effective in treating ADD. The data is just not there. On the contrary, there is increasing data about its harmful effects, especially the more potent cannabis that is now available.

My own experience is this: I smoked pot myself in my 20s, but stopped because it makes me have anxiety attacks. I have a brother and a sister now in their 50's who have been heavy marijuana users for most of their lives. I never thought it could be so addictive. Being high all the time has not had a positive effect on their lives, let's put it that way. My brother finally stopped using cannabis a year ago after a very severe psychotic episode that put him in a psych ward for a month. He literally was too terrified to go outside. When he came to live with me after leaving the psych ward is when I started reading up on cannibis and psychosis. Until then I did not know that smoking pot has been associated with sudden onset psychosis. My brother can control his anxiety somewhat now with anti-depressants but he still has to move frequently because ''they find out where he lives''.

I have two young adult sons who occasionally smoke. If I had known when they were in high school what I know now about cannabis, I would have done everything in my power to prevent them from smoking it. Marijuana is not safe for brain development, and kids' brains are still developing into their 20's.

I also have a younger son with pretty severe ADD who has been dramatically helped by Ritalin. I think you should read up on this, paying attention to the source, and also consult a neuropsychologist or developmental pediatrician. anon


15-year-old is smoking pot regularly, lying to us about it

Dec 2009

Our son is 15. He is a top athlete, grades are great, outgoing, confident and well liked by peers and adults however he is smoking pot regularly, sneaking out of our house, lieing to us, and we simply can not trust him anymore. We ground him, take away all forms of communication to his friends, tell him to distance himself from certain group of friends. He agrees and promises he is done smoking and asks for ''1 more chance'' to prove he won't smoke anymore. Once we start to remove restrictions, he is back to what he was doing before. He offers to be drug tested (which we did and he failed). His activities are now affecting his younger siblings since kids at the middle school have seen our older son getting stoned and are telling the younger ones.

We don't know what to do anymore. Are we the problem? Are we unrealistic and pot is OK? We are just your normal average parents trying to raise our child and teach them to make inteligent choices. We don't impose unrealistic expectations on our kids...we just want them to be happy and healthy. There are no divorce issues, no extreme grade expectations, no over indulgence of giving, we do not have drinking issues. Are we the problem? Does anyone have a counsel they can suggest in the Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon area? This is our next step since we want to help our son and the rest of our family. What has other families done who have been in the same situation as us? Danville mom


Yes, I agree your son needs help. My daughter had similar problems in high school and we are now in family therapy with Coyote Coast in Orinda. They specialize in boys with the kinds of issues that your son has. They provide family therapy, group therapy with other kids, and ''mentors'' who have various therapy degrees. They organize hikes and outdoor type activities. Here's their website: http://www.coyotecoast.org/ If they cannot help your son they will refer him to someone who can. Pot is dangerous and I recommend that you research its impact on the adolescent brain. It is also a gateway drug. (Read Beautiful Boy by David Sheff). If he promises to stop and doesn't and even asks for a drug test and then fails it - that sounds very serious to me. It means he's in extreme denial. If he truly wants to stop smoking pot and can't, he's an addict. Anon
My friends have heard me get on this soapbox more than once. We need to act as a community and stomp on this tolerance to high school students smoking pot. As my son says, it is openly smoked at lunch on the lawn between City Hall, Berkeley PD, the School District Headquarters, and BHS. No one seems to have the time to do anything about it. Don't worry about seeming uncool. When I was in high school, I purchased pot once. I was ratted out by a friend who told his mom who told my mom. My mom's response was, ''I understand you have pot in the house. I will give you five minutes to flush all of it down the toilet. If you do not comply, I will call the police and they will arrest you. Oh, and you can forget those scholarships to college.'' That was enough to stop it cold in my case, because I knew she would follow through. We need to stop being the ''cool parent'' and be the Parent. Health Educator
Dear Danville Mom,
While reading your message, I realized I could have written the same message 6 months ago. I won't go into details, but during that time, I had so much guilt for my (what I thought) ''wayward'' son. Once the smoke settled (and it took time), I realized it wasn't me after all. Like you, we have a stable home, no bells or whistles. I was a stay a home mom until one year ago. After my discovery, I wept, screamed, felt alone, and wouldn't tell anyone for fear of being judged (THAT DID NOT HELP). Once I ''unloaded'' I felt so much better, and felt like I could tackle the issues at hand.

Based on your words, try not to feel it's anything you are doing wrong. For me, smoking pot/drinking is not okay and totally unacceptable. A lot of parents find it totally normal...not me.

My son told me most of his friends do pot and/or drink alcohol (he was a 18 and a senior!). I wasn't too surprised...as long as it wasn't my son. His friends were personable, kind to our family, funny, intelligent and trustworthy. What did I know?

After my son's outings, I would stay up, I would do the sniff test; no smell of alcohol/weed, no red eyes, no late late nights...nothing! From time to time, checked out his facebook, would sneak peeks in his bedroom, and sometimes check out his texts. I didn't want to be the clueless mom. So much for that thought.

Although six months have passed, I want him to visit with a therapist so he can talk through his past and future challenges. So that you know, I have close friends with kids my age living in San Ramon (both boys). One child recently graduated h.s. and the other is a 10th grader; both kids also say EVERYONE smokes/drinks. With that said, your son is surrounded and tested by his peers daily, and not just at a party.

You'll find what's right for your family. Until then, be strong and keep doing your own research.

Very sincerely, Castro Valley Mom


Toughen up. We live in a good neighborhood which is safe, crime free and academically competent. There are drugs available easily and kids even smoke pot at school. They have the money to buy them. This makes the problem worse. By allowing your son to tell you he WILL stop and then doing nothing when he does not you are ENABLING him. Tell him from now on what he says is not what matters. You are looking at what he does. Do not allow him privileges. No money. No hanging with friends. No phone. No non school related computer time. Make him earn his privileges back by being substance free with regular testing. Don't just ask him if he is drug free. If he continues to use get him in to a treatment program. Being nice and reasonable does not work. The user will continue as long as you allow him to. You are not your son's friend-you are his parent. Lastly, don't be soft because you feel guilty that you are not perfect (don't provide enough, used pot yourself at one time, are not like all the other parents etc., etc.) That is manipulation. Imperfect parents can still do the right thing. Good Luck Mom of four, also physician.
Get in touch with the Bodin Group in Lafayette. They do educational counseling and consult with families in crisis: (www.thebodingroup.com) They can help you decide what your next steps are. I suggest you consider and look into placing your son in an appropriate Wilderness Program. It has saved the lives of at least two families I personally know. I know this sounds harsh but it is the best thing for him. Really! Anon
I wanted to write in because over the years, I've seen so many youth in my practice that fit your son's description. First, let me try to give a quick response: ''No,'' is the answer for both questions. You aren't causing your son to smoke pot and pot isn't just okay, and you're not being unreasonable.

The real difficulty is that these aren't the right questions to be asking. The questions are:
1. Can a 15-year-old male get addicted to marijuana and what are the warning signs?
2. What interventions should we try and in what sequence?

So, yes, 15 year-old boys (and girls) can and do become addicted to marijuana, in the same way that people get addicted to other legal and illicit drugs: the active ingredient(s) in the drug mirror the effects of normal neurochemicals and bind to neural receptors, creating a pathway for the drug effect that in many cases produces a feeling of well-being. THC, the active ingredient in marijuana is thought to be more psychologically than physiologically addicting, and its effects can be very desirable. The brain can become dependent on a particular state of relaxation or lessening of worry. This is attractive for people who tend to worry a lot. If your son is highly successful in school, a good athlete and has many friends, then he probably does this at a price. We all worry about whether we're ''keeping up the good work.'' Your son may feel that his pot use is under control, but his behavior is accruing unintended negative consequences for himself and the family and he has tried unsuccessfully to cut down or stop his use. These are two hallmarks of drug dependence.

If there is any family history of drug dependence/abuse in your family then his chances for developing dependence increase significantly. Secondly, in my experience, this issue usually does not resolve itself without intervention. Your son--who is probably in over his head and unable to ''pick'' which intervention he needs--is in trouble. UCB Parents has a great list of therapist recommendations. This is a family issue, not yours or your son's problem. A member of your family may be in danger, so your family will love him and respond to him by pushing for help and using professional help to outline your possible interventions. Two books are indispensable: ''Uppers, Downers and All Arounders'' and ''Over the Influence.'' Best of luck (and perseverance) to you all. Michael


I empathize with your dilemma. With a couple of changes, I could have written that letter. My son struggled with grades and had difficulty developing his natural athletic abilities. I've talked with many many parents, and always the good grades, athletic and social skills complicate the decision about whether you need to act now, or can you give them more time to mature and begin to make good decisions. Using my 20/20 hindsight, I say don't wait. The pot smoking, lying, and lack of trust are significantly serious issues. While there's a chance that your son may reverse directions, but there's a much higher probability that this train will pick up speed and you'll be forced to act later rather than sooner. By that time your younger children will have experienced the downward spiral and your family will be in crisis. We didn't act quickly. Like you, we tried many behavioral plans, none of which had any staying power. Then it became clear that we needed help (I applaud you for seeking help at this time) and because we could not enforce a behavioral plan, we chose Hyde School, a college prep boarding school in New England (Bath, ME and Woodstock, CT) that offers a character based education. Hyde appears on this site periodically, often with parents posting opposing views. My perspective is that enrolling in Hyde is the best thing that happened to us and I'm only sorry that we didn't start there sooner. Hyde is by no means a silver bullet. But it did give our son a place to experience success and to be immersed in a ''character culture''. It also took the pressure off him as the bad guy, and helped our family to heal, grow and operate as a cohesive group. I also know that a New England boarding school is not where you go as first step. However, I offer Hyde as a suggestion for when you feel that you've exhausted your local resources. Hyde works with the whole family, not just the student. They would welcome an opportunity to talk to you right now, even though you're not at the point of even considering such a big decision. Don't hope. Act. Hyde '08 Alum parent
Having dealt with a similar situation with a daughter, I can add only a few suggestions: 1)Stay vigilant 2)Keep the dialogue flowing 3)Keep the family boundaries in tact 4)Maintain a watchful eye on your children's on-line activity, texting and friends. If appropriate, touch base with parents of the children your son is hanging out with.
I'm trailing on to a couple of responses. Drinking and drug pressure is at every corner. I am a very involved parent at school, at home etc. I also sit on the Alcohol and other Drug Advisory Board here in Contra Costa County. It isn't just the kids that every one thinks are ''losers'' drinking and using. It is our Honors, Varsity, AP class kids. As parents we have to continue to educate our kids about the effects and consequences and educate the public so parents aren't having that party and serving alcohol, just because you know that they are drinking doesn't make it safe, kids get out of the house without you're knowing sometimes, and depending on the drinking experience, medical problems, prescribed drugs etc. you parents are setting yourself up for a huge fine and lawsuit. Is it really worth it?

Anyway, soapbox sorry. I have three teen boys, they all enjoy smoking pot. I don't allow it, there is a consequence if they are caught but I also know I cannot control everything and in the larger picture I have great kids. Our kids have to make mistakes, hopefully it will not affect the community when they do. Tell your son you do not give him permission to do this and there will be a consequence for his actions just like grown ups have,be there and watch. Every kid is different and every family will have to face their challenges in different ways. Good Luck..Lisa


Pot smoking in middle school

Nov 2009

I was scanning my 13 year old daughter's text messages (yes, I do that), and she told a friend that she had smoked pot with several other school friends. She texted to this friend that she had ''tried'' it, and that they were going to do it again this week.

My dilemma is that when I speak to her about drugs and such, she totally agrees and promises that she would never do drugs (she has a straight A average, and is into sports). I am surprised that she is trying pot, and also surprised that she is lying to me about it. She has always been well behaved, follows rules, and is not a problem at all at home.

What do I do? If I confront her, she will know that I am reading her texts and she will start to delete them. Her father and I both work full time, so we cannot follow her around, but she comes straight home after school each day (we have a babysitter for her younger sibling who says that our daughter is home when she gets here every day). She is with us all weekend. I cannot figure out WHEN this has taken place.

Any ideas about how to handle this would be great. Not my kid!


Hi, What I do when I have info that I garner from sources I don't want to share, I say something like.'' oh, I got a phone call from a mom and I hear that you are smoking pot with some kids. I'm not going to ask you to tell me whether this is true, because I don't want you to have to lie to me.'' I also lay it on heavy about if you get suspended, which you will because kids talk just like this kid did to a parent, you will get ''busted'' and get suspended. It stays on your record and in some districts it goes onto your high school record and would be shared with colleges. I lay it on really heavy. I too have a daughter that ''schmoozes'' and says all the right things, but...she thinks that ''her mom has spies all over'' and it keeps her in line, until she's mature enough to figure out that certain things aren't ok and are not cool! parent
Just an idea. She might be lying to her friend so she can fit in and telling you the truth? There is a lot of peer pressure at this age................ Anon
Is it possible your daughter is lying to her friend? Maybe to sound cool? I definately remember doing things like that at that age. Sorry, I don't have any suggestions otherwise...just a different angle. anon mom
My middle son started smoking pot at BHS. He was a varsity team captain and is now graduating from UCSD six months early with a degree in economics. Yes I know I'm lucky. I would have told him that he could smoke pot on the weekends after he got a BA. And yes I know unproductive pot smoking kids who will always be that, but smoking pot does not have to be the end of the world either. anonymous

How to deal with young teens smoking pot?!

April 2009

In the past few months we have discovered that first our 15 year old and then our 13 year old boys are smoking pot with their friends from school.Only on week-ends. They're maintaining A's and B's in school. The older boy was open and honest about details and agreed to tell us names of who he smoked with, where he bought the pot, etc. on condition that we not tell the parents of those kids. We agreed at the time because he managed to convince us that he really was going to stop and for a while it seemed like he had. Lately I am suspicious and will be bringing it up with him very soon. I feel like we need to include these other parents in the project of watching these kids more closely. However, I don't know most of these people. My boys are at a new school and I don't know a lot of their new friends and almost none of the parents. Also, once those kids learn that my son told us names and details how will that affect friendships....

It was truly awful to find out 3 weeks ago that my youngest was also getting high. And he has a more defiant attitude about it. Feels like there's nothing so bad about occasionally doing it. Won't say he won't ever do it again and won't say where he got it. ANYWAY, there's a lot to say about the feelings this stirs up and the confusion about how to deal with it and keep dealing with it over time. I would REALLY appreciate feedback from folks who have been there and how you've dealt with it. What do you do the second time you catch them? The third time? How do you keep the lines of communication open? If you're meting out consequences are they really going to be honest with you about their drug/alcohol use? So far we've grounded them. Maybe that's not really all that effective.

They're JUST TOO YOUNG to be getting into this stuff!! Thanks for your advice. worried mom


Well, I'm sorry to hear about your situation. It's a really hard thing to deal with. I can only tell you what I've done with my daughter and that some things have changed and some have not. At first I took the attitude that it wasn't okay at all. It shocked her to how upset I was. We talked A LOT about the effects of pot and the long-term use, as far as procrastination and brain development. I talked about people I knew when I was younger, I talked about my bad experiences (which I did have, never really liked it). I've asked her to talk about how it makes her feel. Why is she smoking? What does it do for her. She's gone in and out of smoking more and less. She had bouts of smoking at school and also on the weekends. I used to meet her everyday at lunchtime because she would get stoned and not go back to school if I didn't. I tell her no smoking in my house and I don't want stoned people in my house either. I don't want IT in my house! Then I grew to see that she was not going to stop altogether. She has been saying for a while that she only smokes on the weekends when she has no responsibilities. Now I think about in terms of damage control. Her learning her limits and me keeping a watch on her and letting her know when I think it's too much. She's careful (I think) about not driving with people who have been partying, and does not drive herself when she has. I can't tell you here how much we've talked about it over the years, but believe me it's been an ongoing issue.

As far as the other parents, if they were friends of mine I would bring it up. If not, then I decided not to. I think it's important to say what YOU feel, if you are against certain behavior, then say it. The other thing is to help the kids to be aware of how they feel underneath it all. To trust their instincts about people, what others are doing, and what will happen to them in a particular situation. Is it safe? Stupid? I also tried to give my daughter the words to say ''no''. How much this helped I don't know. But we did talk a lot about doing things differently and avoiding situations where the blunt was being passed. Not all came from me, she had ideas also.

I hope some of this helps. Go from your gut! anon


I certainly can understand your concern. My son, who is 14 yrs old has been smoking pot for about 9 months. Although many of us parents know this is too young to be smoking and drinking. The reality is that many of our kids our doing this on the weekends and sometimes after school. This is no different, then when I was in middle school in 1979. We have decided to approach this in an unorthodox way. We would prefer that our son is honest with us about drinking, smoking, sex, etc... this way we can inform him of the dangers, he can confide us and have an open/honest relationship without having to lie and sneak around. We are tolerating (within reason)this activity provided that his grades are acceptable and he is being responsible. While many parents wouldn't agree with this approach we feel for now it's working. Our son has no problem telling us what he and his friends are up to, so we know when he plans to go to party and there's going to be smoking and drinking. He feels comfortable confiding in us and has told us of how his friends lie and make arrangements, so their parents won't find out. I've talked to a few parents that are taking a similar approach. However, I have talked to some parents who are drug testing their kids. The kids continue to smoke anyway and some have run away from home. These kids are experimenting with drinking and smoking and are by no means drug addicts, but they are being treated as such. Parents are responding out of fear that their child will move on to harder drugs and become an addict. However, parents should be careful because all of the drug testing, counseling and rehab can be damaging to the teen if it's not warranted. It's a tough situation and every teen and family are different. What works for one teen may not for the other. One thing for sure is you're not alone. LM
To Worried Mom,

You are in the drivers seat. I implore you to keep up with those consequences. Set up a family agreement, or teen contract that states what happens if they smoke. Be clear, and follow through. Whatever your feelings are around tolerance in the long run, it is a no-go for them to be smoking pot right now and for a determined period of time, so both kids can show you they can stop. Grounded is good. Consequences of a 24 hour freeze of cell phone, computer and TV can annoy them too, which is about all you can hope for in a consequence. Zero tolerance--no exceptions.

Don't wait, because if you do, recreational can turn to abuse very quickly in young people, and it is true that pot can often lead to other drugs. If you wait, others might have to be administering the consequences, such as school, youth programs, and the law.

Read up about addiction. Read Parenting Teens with Love and Logic.

I could have used some stronger advice for my Berkeley High son, so please excuse my emphatic response. Mom of a 16 year old addict


I actually waited to see what other parents had to say before I commented. Now I am ready to answer and it will be unpopular. Your sons are TOO YOUNG to be smoking pot on a regular basis. It is an illegal drug, and you can be held liable for allowing them to do so, especially a 13 y.o. The argument ''they're going to do it anyway'' doesn't make sense when you are really keeping track of what your kids are doing, and that's what you have to do from now on. Yes, tell the other parents. I would be totally angry at a parent who knew my child was doing something illegal and didn't tell me.

The way we explained it to our kids is that drinking is an adult decision and when you are an adult, you can make the decision to drink alcohol or not. We pretty much said the same thing with smoking pot, but we added that pot was still illegal, and when you make the adult decision to smoke it, you also take the adult risk of getting arrested.

Not that my kids are angels. I know my older daughter tried pot when she was 16, and at 20, she doesn't really like it. My 17 y.o. has said she has been offered at a prty but is afraid to smoke anything because of her asthma.

Good luck with your boys. I know pot should be legal, but treat it like alcohol. You wouldn't want your kid staggering around with alcohol on his breath. mj


You have received some good feedback on this newsletter. I would like to add that a substantial body of research shows that delaying onset of substance use or experimentation leads to better outcomes. Thus, no matter how one feels philosophically about the ''they will do it anyway'' argument, your efforts to provide greater supervision and limit their opportunity to use substances will be worthwhile. And children do internalize parental values even if it doesn't look like it from their behavior. You should consider carefully how your responses reflect your values. Limit-setting may be perceived as frustrating by them, but it is also perceived as protective and loving.

I encourage you to keep the lines of communication open with your children and to make an effort to communicate with your children's friends. The more information you have about their attitudes and activities, the better. Listen as much as you can. Don't be afraid to hear! You can provide empathy and validation of their feelings without capitulating to the pressure to be a ''cool'' parent and turn a blind eye to drug use. Your kids may roll their eyes, but there is quite a bit of peer pressure around substance abuse, and they are not as immune as they think. Some things to consider - is depression a factor here? ADHD or learning disabilities? Anger being acted out? Family history of substance abuse or dependence? Kids bored or alienated from school and age-appropriate social and extracurricular activities? How is the family functioning?

It can be hard for parents to take a stand on drugs and alcohol, especially in the face of your children telling you that other parents are permissive. A therapist can help assess your teen(s) and provide recommendations and treatment if treatment is indicated. A therapist can also help you sort out the issues and your feelings and provide guidance and support in setting limits and communicating with your children.

The NIDA website has some good information about drugs and alcohol. Also, when I was a post-doc at Kaiser in San Rafael, we had a wonderful multi-family group where teens and parents could talk about these issues in a supportive environment. Perhaps there is similar group available through your insurance. Best of luck to you. Ilene


14yo daughter is cutting classes and smoking pot

Nov 2005

Hi, I'm the parent of a bright, motivated sophomore at BHS. Lately, I discovered that she has been smoking pot. I think this first happened toward the spring of 9th grade and has been fairly sporadic. Recently, though, it's been once a week. This week she skipped a day of school and smoked pot. I'm pretty much at a loss. She keeps up with her school work, and is interested in school (more so this year than last). I'm worried about what I see as a downward trend, though. Anyway -- these are my questions: Is this normal teenage risk-taking behavior? Do all kids at BHS smoke pot, so I should just not worry about it? Since, frankly, I am worried about it, how do I keep her away from all the pot that seems to be freely available at BHS, and from all her friends, who are apparently also all smoking pot? I'm trying to remember what I did as a teenager -- I had sex at 17, drank an occasional beer and smoked a little bit of pot in college. To me, 15 seems much too young for any of this. Am I hopelessly old-fashioned? Isn't this bad for a developing brain? Help! anonymous


I have a daughter who is a senior at BHS. We have gone through many of the growing pains of high school: cutting classes, alcohol consumption, drug use, sex, etc. The first thing I realized is that we as parents cannot control their actions. We cannot keep them away from drugs or stop them from cutting classes. We can only let them know how we feel. And the most important thing for me, was to let her know that I wanted her to be safe and feel comfortable with her actions. This meant, I knew she would probably try drinking, smoking, cutting classes, etc. all, atleast once.

I let her know that I didn't think it was a good idea, but that if she was going to do it, to do it in a safe environment, and always know that she could call us, if she ever felt unsafe or uncomfortable. That her safety was more important than the fact that she was drinking or whatever. We also had many conversations about her experiences with friends drinking, getting high, etc. and she gave her opinion and we gave our opinion. Hopefully her comfort level with being able to talk to us about her experiences, as opposed to feeling like she had to hide them, allowed her to see them from a different perspective, and helped her to make more informed choices. The same with cutting classes. She usually calls to let us know if she is missing a class, and why. She knows we don't encourage it on a regular basis, but it's ok once in a while, to take a break. We felt it was more important to be realistic about what she might try, and have some communication about it, rather than ram our expectations down her throat and have no idea what is going on.

We cannot control our kids actions, the best we can do is to let them know that we support them. Good luck with your daughter.


I'm sure you'll get lots of thoughtful answers to this question -- so I'll give you one that's a little more visceral.

PLEASE....Stand up for your kid's health and safety --- even if it seems like ''everyone is doing it'' (insert activity here...drugs, sex, skipping class, etc.). 15 is too young for a lot of things that your kid will be exposed to at Berkeley High...If you are not willing to draw a line for her between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.... you better believe no one else will do it.

Whatever age you were when you did various things... I think a more appropriate question is whether you later regretted doing some of them, or would have been harmed by NOT doing them in high school. And remember, high school in a time of AIDS and various available drugs isn't really the same mostly benign experience it was for us baby boomers. Peer pressure is strong, but your opinion matters, too. Be clear and consistent.

Here are some of the mantras I mumble throughout my day:

''I don't regret what I didn't (get to) do as a teenager, just some of the things I did.''

''Most of our lives are lived over the age of 18 -- so what's the hurry?''

My favorite, after 17 years, is still:

''Most kids DO grow up'' (the odds really are in your favor...)

Please feel free to contact me for support in being hopelessly old fashioned, and don't be swayed by your parent ''peers''. You owe it to your kids --- even if you're just giving them a firm boundary to step over from time to time. Heather


Hi, I don't have ANY advice, but I am curious to hear what others will say. I am in a similar position, but my daughter is in 9th grade. She's started smoking pot and skipping class, not the whole day but here and there the classes she doesn't care for as much. We have put an end to the skipping problem for the moment. I told her I would walk her to every class! But the pot-smoking is an issue also. It does seem VERY accessible at school. While I can't stop her from smoking, I tell her I don't want her to and we talk about the reasons why: bad for lungs (she's an athlete); one's guard goes down and could be unsafe; illegal-if she gets caught she's in big trouble, etc. I think there is a balance between saying you don't want a kid to do something, but also are able to be there to hear them when they need to talk about it if they feel bad, without making a judgement. I'm struggling with that. We have addiction in our families so my fears are slightly compounded. We have been talking about how she feels when she's high and how it makes her feel relaxed and uninhibited, which is a nice feeling, but we've also been talking about when it becomes something to rely on, and then it's not recreational anymore. I tell her I would like her to be able to relax and relate to people without drugs, it's more ''real'' that way, and everyone remembers what they said the next day! She also likes the way the world seems different, I said, ''try quantum physics!'' I think only a few of her friends smoke too, but she's really tight- lipped about it, especially about where she gets it! For the most part, she's doing well, adjusting to the size and freedoms of BHS, and I'm hoping we will get most of this stuff over with the first year! I'm optimistic. I guess we just have to keep talking about it with each other and with our kids. By the way, I was 13 when I started smoking, drinking and having sex. By high school I didn't want to smoke anymore and drinking didn't have a big allure either (sex, well...). It's good to keep in mind that my kid is not like me in many respects, but I can warn her of what's out there and what to be cautious about. I made it through adolescence and so did many people who also started with this stuff young!

Good luck, and I look forward to reading the other responses. anon


We caught sophomore son smoking

Help! My sophomore son was smoking marijuana with friends who stayed overnight at our house. (We woke up and smelled it.) I'd like to know what other parents have done. Our son is a below-average student but always has been. There hasn't been a marked change in his behavior, but he's had a couple of tantrums that I suspect may have been because he was stoned. He is spending more time with video games etc. and less with what I think of as constructive activities, but it's not a big change. In other words, he could be smoking a lot, or this could have been an isolated lark, as he claims. Many parents must have faced this -- Can some of you let me know what worked, or didn't work? Thanks.
I recommend you talk confidentially with Anthony, the head of the health center at Berkeley High. He's had a lot of experience with this.
My son began smoking marijuana with his friends on the weekend when he was 15 (two years ago) and continues to do it now and then. Not every day, not every week, but probably several times a month. He was very secretive but left evidence lying around in his room. He has never been a great student, and I have not seen any change in his grades for better or worse in the past 2 years. Most of his friends are very ambitious, excellent students. I talked to one friend's mom about it. We basically both agreed to stress that this is something that should never be done during the week, that it should never be allowed to interfere with school and extra-curricular activities (which they are all active in) and that we expect them to behave responsibly. My son and his friends also drink occasionally, at parties and on the sly when someone's parents are out of town. I strongly disapprove of this, though they reassure me they never drive when they are drinking. We have had many discussion about this. Frankly, I worry a lot more about alcohol than about marijuana. As far as I know, kids don't overdose and die from marijuana, but alcohol is a different story, and college kids are all the time drinking themselves into comas. So personally as long as the smoking is not interfering with his life, I look the other way. I am not recommending this approach, I'm just saying this is what we do and it has worked for us.
I am the parent of a teen who is currently in a residential treatment center (RTC). While he was never a great student and struggled a lot all through school, we started seeing a steep decline from the eighth grade on. In ninth grade he admitted he had a problem with marijuana and asked us to get him help. We enrolled in a nine month outpatient drug rehab program which consisted of family, peer and individual counseling. By the beginning of tenth grade, though, our son was failing school outright. When he began running away from home we realized we could no longer handle the problem at home and found the RTC, where he has resided for the past 15 months. He is a changed boy. About seven months ago, he confessed to us that he had never stopped using drugs, not even during the outpatient program: he learned all the tricks to mask drug detection by urine tests and used alcohol and Vicodin (a potentially deadly combination), which are quickly cleared from the system. All this is to say that your son's problem may be bigger than you think. Kids who are struggling in school often use marijuana to self-medicate for anxiety; or they use it to avoid fears of failure (or success) or for peer acceptance or for any number of other reasons. If they have addictive personalities, they can't just stop with one joint (or one beer). Our son was smoking marijuana four times a day at the time he went to the RTC.

Don't expect to get help from other parents - most of our son's friends' parents closed their eyes to the problem, especially if their child was successful in school (although since then, we've discovered several kids who had been doing well in school, but were using, are no longer doing well in eleventh grade). There isn't a lot of professional help here in the East Bay, either. I believe the only program for teens is the inpatient program at Thunder Road in Oakland. (I've since learned that outpatient programs, in general, aren't effective, anyway.) It takes serious therapy to change behavior and a long time to integrate that behavior: the problem didn't happen overnight and there are no quick fixes.

Talk to your son openly; see if you can find out more about what's going on, what's driving his use of marijuana, and how much and how often he's using. He may hate the situation he's in and not know how to get out of it. See if you can restrict him from seeing the friends he smokes with (this is not easy; peers are everything). Also, I would let his friends' parents know the situation, although they may not be willing to support you (ie., they may continue allow your son at their house even if you don't want him there, or not supervise the kids even if you request they do). In our situation, we found that, while our son was living at home, restricting privileges didn't work. He got around any restrictions by running away. For the same reason, consequences didn't work: he wasn't around to suffer them. If you're serious, you have to step up your own vigilence. However, my experience tells me that if your son is flaunting your authority or lying to you, whatever you attempt at this point (at home) is too little, too late. In my son's case, he had to be put in a truly restrictive environment, with positively no way out, before change was possible. I'm sure you will get lots of other advice, but this is mine in a worst-case scenario.


13-year-old has been smoking with his friends

We recently learned that our 13 year old has been trying marijuana (2-3 times) with a few of his friends. We contacted the other parents - including the source, andhave had several serious discussion siwth our teen - but have yet to impose any specific punnishments - but are concerned that there should be consequences. We would be ineterested to hear how others have handled their first discussion with their teens who have started experimenting - and what if any consequences were applied. Please reply - thanks, Anon.
I'd like to share our experience with marijuana. It sounds as though we were a lot farther down the road of substance abuse potential when we learned of the problem, but I hope that some of this information can be helpful to you or other parents out there. We are pretty watchful and involved parents and were shocked last year when we discovered that our well-behaved, communicative, straight-A student, athletic14 year old had been smoking pot 2-3 weekends a month plus occasional binge drinking with friends for over a year. She called it "experimenting", said that it helped her relax, and apparently the mythology in her peer group of artists and musicians was that it enabled them to be more creative. We talked with a number of parents of older teens, some friends who are drug counselors, and actually went for an evaluation at a drug treatment center in hopes of getting advice about how to deal with our concerns about this. While we learned a lot of helpful information, we also found that there is very little help available out there for teens who are "at risk" but not yet at the point of chronic use or dependence.

This is what we learned:

1. "Experimenting" is defined as trying pot 5 or 6 times and then stopping use. Using 2 or 4 times a month on some sort of regular basis puts one at risk of chronic use and dependence.

2. The pot that our kids are smoking is 5 to 14 times stronger than the stuff we were smoking in the 60's. Most of the studies that have been done so far on effects of marijuana use are based on the older, lower strengths of the drug.

3. Younger adolescents are at highest risk of substance abuse. The respiratory tracts of adolescents are more susceptible to damage from carcinogens and other pollutants in marijuana smoke. New studies show that the human brain is still developing until the mid-20's. The last areas to develop are those that involve judgement and reasoning. Marijuana impairs the development of these areas of the brain. Also, because it targets and affects certain mood-altering neurotransmitters it can more quickly create dependence/addiction in a younger brain that is still developing.

4. Susceptibility to dependence/addiction can be hereditary. A family with a history of depression or other mood disorders or alcohol/drug abuse can mean that the child is more at risk. Using marijuana or other external substances as a "crutch" for dealing with anxiety or depression impedes the child's development of their own internal resources.

Our family rules are based on "health and safety" issues - when necessary, these areas are pretty broadly defined. We had some long discussions with our daughter about the above information and used it as the basis for our position that she must abstain from all mood-altering substances. We had discussions with all the parents involved and learned to our dismay that most were unwilling to intercede in their children's behavior or else talked a good line about strict supervision but never followed through. We learned that one parent allowed the kids to smoke in the home while she was there. As a result, we have had to enforce some pretty strict rules about certain homes being off limits and adult supervision required in those that weren't off limits.

We have committed to abstinence ourselves (previously drank occasional beer or wine at home) to support our child's commitment to abstinence and also to better understand her motivations. We are participating in family counseling to deal with the stressors which she says led her to look to pot for relaxation and she is enjoying yoga and meditation classes.

The last year has been challenging but we have definitely seen a payoff. Our family relationships are better and more open. Our daughter continues to do well in school and has on her own pulled loose from the problematic friends as she has watched them slide downhill. She protested loudly in the beginning that we were overreacting to normal adolescent behavior but at the same time seemed comforted that we did care enough to intercede.

In answer to your question about consequences: the restrictions on unsupervised time was the main consequence we imposed. Other parents we talked with have required attendance at 12-step meetings so that the child can hear first hand other teens' experiences with the consequences of chemical dependence, and have used random drug screening as a safety net (they say it gives their child an "out" when pressured by peers to participate).

We still struggle with occasional self-doubt about the way in which we interceded (and I think a big part of this is related to the lack of support we got from other parents) but I commend you for taking this seriously at an early stage and hope that by doing so you will be spared some of the heartache that we've seen other families endure.


Thanks for writing about your experience. I hope my support can replace that of some of the parents you dealt with. I'm especially impressed by your willingness to communicate, to care and even to alter your own behavior to reflect your expectations for your daughter. I know that most of us believe our children are the most precious thing in the world -- but sometimes we duck the hard work of really "raising" them. Thanks again. Heather
re marijuana... I respect your approach, and admire the way you back up your rules for your kids with your own example of a drug-free and alcohol-free home. But this approach is not the right one for my family, and I have a different take on it. I never had to deal with the issue of a young teen smoking pot, so I'm not addressing that, but my opinion is that for older teens, it is OK in moderation, assuming there are not other problems that will be made worse by it. I know that my 18-year-old occasionally smokes, probably my 16-year-old has tried it also, though the younger one gets more supervision so it's harder for him to do things I don't know about. But I think: they can see for themselves that it isn't evil and dangerous, and I can't honestly say myself that any harm will come to a well-adjusted kid smoking marijuana now and then. I am a hundred times more worried about alcohol abuse, and would rather save my heavy artillery for that battle, should it arise. My approach on marijuana is to talk about it with them, and I answer honestly when they ask about my own experience and my opinions, which they do. I would never encourage them to smoke marijuana; I don't smoke anymore myself, and I certainly wouldn't hang out with my kids smoking a joint. But when the 18-year-old goes up to the attic with his buddy and they open all the windows and burn incense, I know what they're doing, and they know that I know, but they don't tell me and I don't ask. The truth is, I just don't see it as a big worry.

The original letter did make me think about our responsibility for other peoples' kids. No parent wants to be the unwitting host of activities that are forbidden by other parents. I have talked to the parents of my kids' closest friends about marijuana and alcohol and I've we have called each other when we've made "discoveries" at home. In general we've come pretty close to having the same approach. What would I do if another parent phoned me whose approach was very different from mine? I'd respect their opinion, and I'd pass the word on to my kids, but I would give them my own opinion too, and hope that my opinion would receive the same respect that theirs gets.


Questions about Older Teens


16 year old's heavy marijuana use

Feb 2013

I've reviewed previous posts on this subject but still find myself without answers. My 16 yo son has progressively become a heavy (daily?) pot smoker and occasional drinker. He smokes alone and with his friends, at home and in parks, etc. He's a bright boy but his grades are in the toilet and he needs help. Grounding and countless conversations have gotten us nowhere. I believe that pot has become a social connection for him as he has had problems finding real friends and smoking pot allows him to have something in common with other kids. I'd appreciate hearing from anyone with experience in getting their kid to stop or at least decrease the frequency and what they did. One therapist whom we spoke to suggested an away rehab in the country (my son enjoys outdoors) and dissuaded us against Thunder Road (we live in Oakland) However my son has said previously that he would run away if he were sent away. If anyone has experience with Thunder Road or East Bay facilities and therapists or any other advice please let me know. Desperate and need help


I feel for you. My son is nearly 18 so time is ticking for us. We had him meet with Jason Lechner in Walnut Creek last year...but at the time, our son was in denial about how marijuana was affecting him, made some changes, etc. and we stopped seeing the counselor. Jason and his partner David Heckinlively are a good place to start if you are looking for counseling. However I am recommending something else now: New Leaf Treatment Center in Lafayette. If I could do it again, I'd have made him attend this youth program a year ago. You could put some serious consequences (drug testing, whatever) on him and counseling....then maybe just get him to meet with the doctor there or the counselor, Jeff Kent, to get a foot in the door. We just did that, our son met Jeff and it went very well. For us, since our son is about out of the house and we just want him to consider that he may be prone to addiction and gain some insight, we are letting him meet with Mr. Kent and come to some of his own conclusions but at 16, I may insist on this program. (Or the Kaiser Substance Abuse program- we went to the orientation and it looked good, but we are not Kaiser members so it was not an option for us.) Take care, I wish the best for you. Mom with similar issue
I am curious as to why your son's therapist didn't recommend Thunder Road. My son was there 4 years ago for addiction (alcohol + ???) and although it was very demanding of the parents' time, it was great for him. He was the only male there who wasn't under a court order to attend and was only there a month (the minimum) but he's kept clean and sober since he's been out. He refused to go until he decided for himself that he was ready to be clean. Coincidentally, his main counselor had been a marijuana addict. Thunder Road fan
You are going through a very difficult time. I encourage you to attend the next Willows in the Wind meeting. It is listed under announcements in this bulletin. There you will meet many parents who have had experiences similar to yours. Most decided to send their teens to a wilderness program, inpatient substance abuse program, and/or a therapeutic boarding school. We have walked in your shoes. Hopefully you saw our announcement last week and attended the Oakland meeting. If not, please either phone, email or attend the next meeting. Please visit our website willowsinthewind.com. Robin

Pot smoking 17yo ....in home or out?

Nov 2012

HI All, I found out a few months ago that my 17 yo son has been smoking pot. We had a long discussion about the legalities, where he smokes, when, where does he get it from, etc. He was very open with me.

Though I'd be happier if my son were not smoking weed, I don't feel I can stop him. Also, my son has anxiety issues and this definitely helps ease his anxiety. I told him I didn't want him smoking in the house (which is how I first found out....smelled it in the bathroom...duh!!) I told him he could smoke in the back yard (very private) and if he's smoking outside, he needs to be really careful.

He told me he mostly smokes at a friends house. There is a park near our house where I know they go and there are secluded areas there.

So, here's my question....For those of you who have teens and older kids who do smoke pot, do you allow them to smoke in the safety of your home? I'm not sure telling him ''not in the house'' was the wisest decision, given that he is going to do it anyway.

I'm interested ONLY in answers to my question, and not to be lectured on the downfalls of pot smoking. I am well aware of all the negative aspects. My son is a good enough student, has a great group of friends (most of whom I know, plus parents) and thus far, is a well adjusted teen. Thanks for your input, anon mom


No, I did not allow my kids to smoke pot at home when they were in highschool, college, or now. Same for my adult loser pothead relatives. And if they go in my backyard to smoke, I say something about it to them. It stinks, and it's bad for them.

For a kid under 21, the harder you make it for them to smoke pot, the less they will smoke, and the more brain cells they will have available in adulthood as a result. There is no advantage to letting your kid smoke pot at home. If you are having a problem with your son being gone all the time because you won't let him smoke pot at home, then that is a different problem you should address.


i would insist on your son smoking outside the home. it seems like your yard is a great compromise -- private, but it doesn't intrude on your life. since u don't love that your son smokes, don't encourage it by letting him smoke in your home. non smokers, and parents, have rights too. judith
We are in a fairly similar situation, and have talked and pointed out risks aplenty. We initially said not in our house, but our son came back to us saying, but you told me never to do this anywhere risky, or where I would need to get transportation, or could attract the attention of the law, and I'm telling you I'm going to do it somewhere. (In his case insomnia and ocd symptoms which go away with pot) We said, um, yeah, we need to think this through more. After much thought we told him, we don't approve, we don't want to support this, and here's the deal. If you do it, it has to be invisible, in the sense that no teacher, parent, neighbor, or ANYONE better ever notice that you seem high or display altered behavior. No drop in grades. If any of those rules broken, we would be very aggressive and go all out to control/stop/monitor you. We don't want to you get in danger to do this somewhere risky. So he's been smoking in his room. He claims 2x a month, I believe more. I continue to feel very uncomfortable and conflicted. The other main problem is it makes his room, and sometimes that part of the house, stink. I do feel it's a safer way to do it, and I know he has a clean, free source. I wish I had a better answer. This is an ongoing discussion with him every few weeks. struggling to figure it out
My son is 17, we've known he's been dappling since age 15 but really knew it was frequent for the past year. I'm against it but that just pushes it underground. We went to counseling, drug tested, then came to a more agreeable place. Basically, a little pot use will be tolerated as long as he keeps his grades up, keeps a job, doesn't drive under the influence and doesn't have it in the house...and I don't want to smell it in the house or in the car. The difference is that my son's crowd is not as good as your sons, his grades suffered last year so he's finishing school in independent study and I feel he over uses and it stalls him from accomplishing what he needs to. We warned him about having it or paraphernalia in the car but know he's gotta keep it somewhere...long story short...warned him but said we won't search his trunk anymore but will search the interior. Then more stuff happened....now we say it won't be tolerated in the car or trunk. I'm tolerating some use presently because I'm trying to work with him and get him through school without driving him to leave home but he knows that we will another bridge to cross after graduation. So now he's limited to smoking it elsewhere and I tolerate seeing that he is under the influence occasionally. (I don't know where he keeps his stash if not in his car.) I do think our limits kind of push him away from us and being home. But since pot is not doing him any good (grades, attitude, too much idle time, not planning his future...just bumming with his friends.) and since I object, it's not fair for me to compromise and allow it in my home. I had my phase in high school too but I was a good student and my dad only caught me once. I was more discreet about it and never expected it to be allowed at home...what happened to the days of sneaking? I'm thinking that tolerating your sons use may be OK since he seems well adjusted otherwise. Whether in your house or not....that's up to your gut. Fellow mom of teen.
Hi. I am not facing this issue yet, although I have thought about it a lot based on my own teenage years. I have always felt that if my children are going to engage in pot smoking, I'd rather they do it at home where I know they're safe and know they won't be driving themselves or driving with someone who is stoned. Good luck. ~ anon
Just because you say ok for your child to smoke in the house (so he will be safer) doesn't mean that he won't do it outside as well. My feeling is that if a kid is so bold to smoke at home or be high in front of his parents, then I assume that he is into it and would do it with friends and out and about too. anon

High Functioning 18yr old w/ Pot Addiction

July 2012

My son is addicted to marijana. He is a very motivated, compassionate and high functioning kid who has come to realize that he needs to get stoned almost every day. This is not just a social thing, and he would like to have greater control of it but feels he can't stop. He realizes that his short term memory has been impacted, and that he feels better without the THC in his system constantly. Although the summer is now almost over and he'll return to school soon, he would like help in handling this and is willing to do whatever is necessary next summer when he is home. He is a hard worker, gets A's and high B's at a demanding east coast college, and has worked 7:30-5:30 as a camp counselor all summer, so he is no slackard. But he does want help. Any advice??? Worried Mom


Since your son wants to change his behavior, try the intensive outpatient program at Thunder Road in Oakland (part of Alta Bates/Summit). My teen was part of that program, but wasn't motivated and did not succeed, but it was clear that the kids who wanted to get clean and stay that way did. Parent participation is required as well, and as a parent I found that support invaluable. I just wish my teen had been ready.
Wow! I am so impressed with your son's awareness and wanting to get help. As a adolescent psychologist I can tell you that this is the most important predictor of a positive outcome. If you are a Kaiser member you would have access to great teen chemical dependency programs. I am not familiar with other insurance coverage. I am wondering if your son is anxious or depressed since regular pot use is usually a way to self medicate. Perhaps therapy and medication would help your son. Don't forget to be encouraged by your son's motivation to get better, to make changes. Impressed
I wanted to tell you about New Bridge Foundation in Berkeley. They have a treatment program for 18 year olds and up. They have a very large young adult program that is quite successful. They have different levels of care from residential to intensive outpatient. I noticed that someone mentioned Thunder Road. While it is a good place too, he will most likely be the oldest one there as they cater to 13 year olds and up. I guess it depends upon what you think may work best for him, being the oldest or on the younger side. You can call both and check them out. New Bridge Foundation's number is (510) 548-7270. The settings are also different.

Good luck. This is a great start. I don't know if anyone mentioned it but Alanon is great and they have alanon for parents which is even better!! p.s. While I work in the field, I too had a family member who was almost 19 that I sent to New Bridge. KNowing what to look for in a program ( because I work with several), I had my nephew fly in from out of state to go to their residential program and then live with me when stepping down to the intensive outpatient program. Hang in there. been there


In response to last week's comment about Thunder Road's outpatient program being for younger teens: when my teen participated (second half of 2011), there were at least two 18-year olds in the group, and the youngest teen was 15. As with any other group, the demographics are unpredictable and subject to change at any time there's space for a new participant. In my teen's group, for example, there was only one girl the entire 5 months, but no one could conclude that Thunder Road's groups are mostly for boys. I don't want the original poster to be persuaded away from Thunder Road as an option for her 18-year old, particularly since he is motivated to change. Anonymous

17 Year Old Son Smoking Marijuana - Just a phase or more?

March 2012

My son has always been drawn to the cool (skater)crowd. He's had the same group of perfectly nice friends forever who are increasingly doing undesirable things(raves,pot,continuation school.) He is sort of aimless but doing OK in school lately. Not an athlete nor involved in school activities. In the past we were the strictest of these parents, kept close tabs, called other parents, grounded son etc, but the pull to be with them is really strong. I think our strictness just forced some of the behavior under ground (more sneaking out, lying, etc.) Add to this that the ''hang out'' is the house next door to us...hard to prevent socializing with certain friends when they are your neighbor. More recently we have adopted a more permissive approach since we were butting heads. Discourage the bad, encourage the good/responsible and requiring: 1. B average and we pay car insurance, 2. Maintain chores and curfew, 3. No drugs(at least I don't want to smell it.) He's been doing well minus our request that he get a job to maintain his lifestyle (skiing, eating out, etc.)and keep him busy and away from friends. Besides my suspicions and past evidence, I've caught him high twice in a week and found out that he uses his allowance for pot sometimes. He basically said he'll tell me what I want to hear but that he's going to smoke it. I calmed down and tried the civil, heart to heart approach. I tried to dissuade his use of it and did praise him for the good I've seen lately. Told him to decide who he wants to be, keep an eye on the amount he is smoking, said I care, I love you, etc. but that I'm not going to fund this and I don't want to smell it. I said driving is a priveledge so if he doesn't have a job in 2 weeks, gas money will be cut in half, then off. I guess then I'll cut out allowance and lunch money too if needed. We left on an agreeable note. Hard to know if it is just a phase (I had my phase) or when it is more than that. He's not stealing, etc, so I don't think it's time to kick him out. (Maybe after high school.) We model a stable, responsible safe place for him but we don't have much in common anymore and he finds home boring. The above is my attempt at keeping what communication and influence we do have going yet discourage him from going down a bad path. I don't want to permit/enable it but feel my hands are tied in stopping it. Advice? Stressed Mom


Let me start by saying that in retrospect we did just about everything wrong in regards to my son's drug use during high school, which he continued into college. So I applaud you for addressing this straight on. We basically had our heads in the sand and everyone suffered unnecessarily because of it. He tried it all into the hallucinogens, and smoked pot and drank regularly. We didn't want to see it and he was a master manipulator. He also was selling dope for a while. How else would he have been able to finance his car without a job - dumb, dumb, dumb. Pre-menopause I was lost in a fog of PMDD - two weeks of every month gone to severe mental and physical distress; so I blame a lot of my blindness towards this on my own hormonally related issues. All that being said, if I were then in the post-menopausal stable state that I'm in now, I would have restricted him out the wahzoo. I think you're headed in the right direction with your restrictions and you need to stick to your guns, which can be very difficult.

Our kids' marijuana is not our marijuana and we as parents are being WAY to LAX on this subject - ''well, because I took it, it's okay for them to.'' NO! Marijuana is being bred to super-strength these days. Please google the connection between marijuana and mental illness.

A few year ago my son was 5150'ed (as forced psychiatric hospitalization is known) twice. One of his Kaiser doctors during his first stay with whom I had lengthy conversations told me that they are seeing a marked increase in the psychiatric hospitalization and psychiatric issues of young people due to the strength of the marijuana kids are smoking these days. With tremendous effort on our parts to bring him back from the brink and eventual heroic effort on his part, he stabilized and is actively involved in a completely different and positive life track. It was HELL for two years!

Do I want to scare people - Yes! Do not be lackadaisical about your childrens' drug use. It could be very costly for everyone. * Anon


Have you talked to him about the pros and cons of smoking pot? Lecturing him about the downside is the easy part. If you don't admit to the positive aspects of pot, he will have a hard time listening to you. A teenager needs hear a balanced, truthful view from a parent. I can't guarantee that this will change his behavior. But he will come to trust you more and you will have more influence if you can communicate in this more difficult way. Sanon
Well, could be a phase- is for most people. Could be a start of a downward spiral- depends alot on his personality. The fact that you have such open communication makes me think its more of a phase and he'll get through this. So congrats for focusing on the results of the behavior rather than being judgmental.

So basically what do you want? You want your son to be a functional adult. As with alcohol, porn, you name it, many adults can handle their vices without it negatively impacting their lives. Others can't and I think that's what you need to get across. You have alot of concerns about him using pot- but mostly you want him to keep his act together and not screw his life up.

So- I would not punish him specifically for using pot. Again, I'd go with what you've started- you want him to maintain B's in his classes, you want him to get a PT job to help out with car payments. remember though, without the car- he's just going to be hanging with his stoner friend next door... And personally IMO, better that he's getting occasionally high than drinking if he's behind the wheel.

I would also have a heart to heart with him. Pot is illegal. If he gets busted it can screw up his chances to attend college. I would recommend that he consider getting a medical evaluation, buying his pot from a medical dispensary. Don't share. It could reduce the chances of him being prosecuted. Most people think that since pot has been downgraded to a misdemeanor that it's no big deal. My understanding is that he can still be denied financial aid with a misdemeanor drug conviction.

Sounds to me he just wants to hang with his friends and he's really only using socially. Just enough to get by. Best to get him to college so he can make some new friends and develop some new passions. And honestly, if this is the biggest issue you've had to deal with and he's 17- well done, you! Pragmatic mama


19 year old 's daily marijuana use

Jan 2012

Our nephew moved in in July. He smokes pot daily, from 11 am. He takes college classes and tends not to smoke before class. He is mostly pleasant, and sometimes watches our two young kids. The effects range from the munchies to a lying, glassy-eyed zombie who passes out with the light on.

His parents live in another country, and are stoners. We offered our home and hearts so that he could get residency and start college in a liberal arts system. We do not charge rent. He lives with us as a ''third child,'' with expectations (dishes, sometimes watch the kids) and benefits (guidance, rides, cell, x-box, vacations).

The problem: we want him to reduce his use, significantly. When we went for a week vacation, and he didn't have his stash, he was wonderful! We saw the charming, REAL person. He said his use was for the numbing effects (''I don't need to worry about my parents''). It made us realize how much we hate daily use, how much more we would enjoy living with him un-stoned. We also feel he is living with us to have a better life, one with ''success'' as he defines it (be a skateboarder, sure!). Pot is in the way.

When I asked him to refrain from daytime use (i.e. no use before hanging out with the kids, before school) and said that we will allow nighttime, recreational use only, or it's zero-tolerance, he flipped! ''You're just my aunt, you can't control my body, it's a lifestyle, I'm a man!'' You need to live with our rules in our house, I said. ''Then I'll just go somewhere else and smoke!'' Not the desired result.

We have no problem with pot. It's in our crowd, not overly common, but several folks smoke on occasion or even daily (at night). I tried it all as a young adult deadhead, so I get the desire to be 19, have fun and be free. I also have some old friends who still live in their parents garage... We drove him to the cannabis fair (mistake?), bought him Tupperware to store his stash, got him a silly pot book (among may other things) for Christmas. I thought I was the cool aunt. What a laugh!

So what now? Too many mixed messages? We offered therapy, al-a-teen. My husband is really fed up (his sister is the kid's mom- who we've ''lent'' $$$ to over the years, who has let my husband down over and over). The kids love him. We love him. I am willing to do the work it takes to keep him in the family. But I am getting bitter and am starting to feel he is a freeloading, self-centered, unappreciative brat who will turn out just like his mom, no matter what we do. Or worse.

Help, please!

Worried and Hurt


You have a big heart and all the right intentions in having your pothead 19 year old living with you. However, as benign as some think that pot is, it is not. Certainly you have witnessed a difference (beter one) when he is off pot. What if he was drinking daily? I suspect you wouldn't allow that. What if he was abusing himself in other ways? This daily pot will most likely get in the way of his goals and also, could cause judgment problems with your kids. I suggest you try the old fashioned ''while in my house, you abide by my rules or you can leave'' You say this is not the desired outcome, but don't let him hold you hostage and turn you into a co-dependent for his bad decisions. Pot every now and then may not be something he can or will do. Stick to your guns. It's your house!! You have to make the rules and stick to the consequences, or you'll de facto put him in charge. Diane W
I agree he has a right to control his own body, but you have a right to determine who lives in your house and how they behave while there. Decide on your limit, which might be not smoking at home at all, just to draw a clear line. Let him know his living at your house (rent-free, to boot!) is contingent on his behavior. You will be sad if he has to leave, but it will be his decision. And leave it on him. Don't get into big arguments or defend your position in any detail. Pick your phrase: ''our house, our rules,'' or ''these are the terms we're offering: you live here and we take care of you, as long as you don't smoke here anymore.'' Whatever, but stick with it when he tries to derail the argument. Be loving and compassionate. And accept that he may choose to move out. If he does so, that is not your problem. As he has told you, he is a grown man. Let him act like one.

You might need to say that at first, you were open to his using pot, until you saw what it did to him and how frequently he used it. The fact that he uses it to not feel is very worrisome. You are not going to stand by and help him do this to himself anymore. That's not being hypocritical; it's adjusting your behavior to fit a new set of circumstances.

It might help you cope if you write up a list of what you can and can't control. You can control who is in your house. You can provide a loving home. You cannot control his decisions about smoking, or moving out. You are not a bad person if you set this limit. You are doing so out of concern based on behavior you think is hurting him. And frankly, even if it's not hurting him, you don't have to live with a stoned person if you don't want to. I lived with a severely mentally ill person for three years and it was hell. I get why you don't want to be with someone who is not himself. It's upsetting, draining and even creepy after a while. sympathetic--but be firm


HI Dear Worried and Hurt: I would be so interested in learning what other folks have to say, although I have to say that others always seem to know exactly what to do and say. Be firm. Set limits. Don't let him get away with this and that. Take away phone, computer, car, take off door from bedroom, etc.

We have an almost 17-year old who started out saying he wanted to smoke pot only on the weekends. We were ok with that. He used to criticize kids who smoke daily. Within 5,6 months, he's become the kid who now says he thinks it should be ok to smoke every evening as long as he's finished his homework. I foresee that soon he'll forget about homework and just go straight to pot.

I, too, am worried and mad and upset and in search of answers. I feel our son is spoiled rotten, never thinks of anything but how to have fun.

As to giving you advice: I think you should hold firm and tell him what you expect: no pot until after school or whatever your expectation is. If he has a problem with that, you always have the option of sending him off to live with his parents. Surely, he must know that he's got it pretty darn good at your house and will either shape up or ship out.

Ahhh... the luxury of giving advice to others!!! Good luck! Mom of a truly terrible teenager


Honestly, I would let him live somewhere else, and smoke. He's ungrateful and ungracious as well as wrecking his own health and intellect, and driving stoned (I gather). Sorry- you're nice people and he's taking advantage of that. Being Stoned is Bad for You
I wonder how you will react when your children are in 7 & 8 th grade getting stoned after school? While many feel there is nothing wrong with recreational use, it is still illegal and there are currently no studies showing how this substance effects the developing brain. There is evidence on how this effects people, children with brain disorders. Concerned
Difficult as it is, you are not helping your nephew by allowing him to wreck his life on your dime. If you love him, then stick to what you know is good for him and for your own family. He is setting a horrible example for your own kids & your tacit complicity is as well. You said it all, & you know it in your heart. The daily pot smoking is a no-go. It should not be in your house or obvious to your children. I don't see any problem in telling him this is your rule. It is your house. Of course he is going to blow up when confronted. Heck he is probably doing so much pot because underneath it all it's possible he is crying out for someone to help him regulate since he has clearly never gotten any and seems to not be capable of it yet himself. Possibly he is looking for the boundary. Set it & enforce it. If he goes too far, he will quickly run into life's boundaries in the form of greatly reduced opportunities and possible criminal incidents. You are the grown up and the one with something to loose as well. mom of an 18 yr. old son
I have to say your are completely clueless about the hazards of substance abuse in teens - perhaps you should do some research on the effects and talk to folks who have had to deal with an adult substance abuser -this will become a life long problem and cause much suffering for those who love this person - educate yourself and be responsible. ] anon
I have so much sympathy for you. Here you are trying to help this young man, and now you are having parenting issues. I think you need to think primarily about your own children. By allowing your nephew to use marijuana on a daily basis, you are sending your own children a powerful message.

You cannot be the ''cool'' aunt and also parent. I strongly urge you to have a real discussion with your nephew, hopefully in the early morning before he has smoked. Explain to him that using marijuana is not a family value at your house. Because of your own children, you cannot allow him to remain in your house if he continues to smoke. If you feel the need, you might explain to your sister that you were unaware of his use, and that you can't have it in your house. If he chooses to leave your home, so be it. While it may not be the outcome you were hoping for, it may be the thing you need to do to keep your own family values intact. If you are financially able to, and you feel it is warranted, you might offer to pay for a flight home for him. But as he himself said, he is 19, and a man, and therefore really responsible for himself. If he can't live by your house rules, he shouldn't be in your house. Yes, you did send him mixed messages. You can apologize for that when you have your serious talk. Good luck! Robin


For what it's worth: Brad Pitt recently spoke of his marijuana experience in the late 90s. ''I'd smoked a lot of weed. I was professional at it. I wasn't participating in life. I was smoking myself into a doughnut, a mollusc. I got disgusted with it,'' Pitt said. That's when Pitt decided to quit. Perhaps this will jog someone into quitting and begin participating in life again. It's never too late to start anew. Hopethishelps

16-year-old smoking weed, drinking, failing classes - Help!

Nov 2011

Husband and I are feeling VERY saddened, frustrated, and helpless to support/guide our 16 year old son. He is a likable, social, confident guy. He holds down a part-time job and has some friends. He is authentic and great with both kids and adults. However, we are really struggling with his daily drug use (weed and less often, alcohol), skipping and failing several classes, and lying to us about this whereabouts and activities. He often sneaks a smoke in his closet, alone. I could deal with one or two of these things, but together, it seems that he's spiraling. Furthermore, he posts on social networking sites, seemingly with pride, (not knowing we can see these posts) about not doing any homework since the first day of school, not checking power school, getting laid, stealing booze from us, etc.

Our attempts to more clearly define our expectations and consequences have been answered with non-compliance, lies and excuses. We've been strict and we've tried being more lenient. We are just starting him on adderall (he has ADHD), we've tried some therapy (going to try this again) - he's willing to ''play the game'' but doesn't think he needs it, we have read parenting books (Michael Bradley, Hiam Ginott), and we are increasing our quality family time. He doesn't have interest in other hobbies.

I'm thinking about this constantly, thinking there must be something we can do to get him on track in school (to graduate) and cut back on his substance abuse. I have faith that someday things will have worked out, but I don't know if I can live like this (and stay sane) until that day.

Thoughts? Support groups? Advice? Therapist recommendations? THANK YOU! distressed mom


I may not have the advice you need, but I can most certainly understand your situation. We've been dealing with very similar issues for 2+ years now...17 Y/O son, daily pot smoker, not on track to graduate, etc. My husband and I have completed the Parent Project (highly recommended)and have done just about everything else known to humankind. Stay United, stay focused, love him every day. You may not think he is ''listening'' to you, but he is...Know that you have 15+ years of influence...this is just a small blimp in time in his teenage brain...Unfortunately, we are much deeper into our issues w/our son...(legal consequences)I would suggest deep involvement with school officials (teachers, counselors, advisers), community resource officers,probation (if necessary) and let him (unfortunately)suffer the consequences of his actions/decisions...I would be more than happy to talk with you further...you have my deepest sympathy and understanding.
Hello, Read your question and had to respond. I am the mother of a former addict and I can tell you addiction starts in high school or younger. There are many resources online. You might also consider attending an Al-Anon Family Group meeting for parents in your area, or talk to an addiction counselor. Substance abuse when started young is one of the indicators of later addiction. Now is the time to have a discussion about the dangers of drug use, which I imagine you already done, set clear boundaries for your son, and follow through. I would lock up your alcohol and prescription drugs. These are just some starters. The Partnership at Drugfree.org has a Parent Hotline - 1-855-DRUGFREE. Please feel free to contact me at my website at http://treatmenttalk.org if you have more questions or want additional help. Cathy
First of all, my heart goes out to you. You do have an impact, though it may not seem that way. Everything you say and do has an impact. It shows him that you love him. It also might be showing him that you are willing to put up with his failure...

I don't know if any of my suggestions will work for you but I thought I would tell you my thoughts, simply because your message stuck in my heart. I'm sure you've done everything you feel you can.

I think you have two choices: one is to let go and allow him to fall. this might take a long time, and he will probably go to to jail until he makes the decision to change his life. But it is one way. the other is to do things that you have not yet tried (though they might be distasteful), in an effort to find the one thing that he will hear and respond to. To me it sounds like he is overwhelmed and probably really cannot stand the pressure of the school he is enrolled in. You could pull him from school, and change to a smaller, progressive environment where he can find something he enjoys doing. no matter what, I would definitely advise that you change schools ASAP, even against his will. I would also suggest that you disallow him from working until he brings his grades up, and disallow him from going to school if he is not doing his school work. The money is fueling his ability to buy weed and other substances, school is giving him social capital. I would also suggest that you strip his room of EVERYTHING he doesn't absolutely need. take all screens, computers, phones away. turn off the internet in the house, and disconnect the phone when he's there. he doesn't need any of it to survive and it will not hurt him. this is positive parenting in my book: the consequences of not following the most basic expectations is that you can't enjoy the benefits. It is hard. I have done similar injunctions with my son and it works wonders. First, he comes downstairs to talk to us, he eats with us, he sleeps longer and more deeply. We laugh more and connect. His grades improve and his mood improves (after a period of horrible acting out of course).

if that doesn't work, I would really suggest that you consider sending him to a facility away from the city. that may feel extreme but he is actually hurting his body, doing harm to himself right now. a few months could actually save an entire lifetime of overcoming what he is facing right now. it's worth seriously considering.

I know you guys will handle this you are the ones in the driver's seat! ultimately, he will listen to you. Much success to you! sympathetic mom of a teen boy


I feel for you! If you have Kaiser insurance, I recommend the weekend (about 6 Saturday mornings) parenting class for parents of ''strong-willed'' children (challenging kids). They use the book ''Changing Destructive Adolescent Behavior'' from the Parent Project, which is excellent.

Also, if your son is failing classes due to ADHD you can request a special education evaluation so he can get some support. This list serve can help: bsped-parents@googlegroups.com. Or contact Ann McDonald-Cacho Ann@mcads.com to get hooked up. Been There Too


Hi Distressed Mom I found myself in a similar situation with a 13yr old son who was diagnosed with ADHD and not invested in his education. Parenting books were not helpful. Adderall really made a difference in the classroom, but most importantly weekly therapy. I can recommend Dr. Bruce Nemirow in North Berkeley. His number is 524-2082, ext 2. He was an excellent fit for my son and has been helping us out over a number of years. wilma
It is heartbreaking to watch your teen unravel. I had personal experience with my own daughter (who at 23 is now self-sufficient and delightful). I am also one of the directors of a parent-to-parent free support group for parents who have teens in wilderness, therapeutic boarding school, or residential treatment center placements. I applaud you for realizing your family needs help. My experience suggests you need more than a weekly therapy session to help you turn this around, and I have two suggestions.

Vania Matheus specializes in working with families like yours. You can meet with her in her office, but she will also come to your home. She will work with you on how to parent an at-risk teen, and also mentor your son. Her website is http://vmatheus.com/vania_matheus/meet_Vania.html

Another option is Vive. Their screening, to see if what you need and what they have to offer is a good fit is done via telephone and email in Colorado. Their model is a bit different. There is a mentor for the teen, and a separate adult to coach the parents. There is a mentor/coach pair in San Rafael who will work with you in the Berkeley area. Please visit their web site for more information. www.vivenow.com/

The group I help lead is called Willows in the Wind, and parents in our group have worked successfully with Vania. We only discovered Vive this summer, and while we've met with their staff in both southern California and San Rafael, the families we referred to them are too recent to be able to give us feedback on how things went. We were, however, very impressed with their understanding of troubled teens and their families and agree with their philosophy on how to create success.

Please investigate both of these yourself. If you use either, I would love your feedback. That is how we develop our information on recommending resources.

Meanwhile, feel free to telephone or email if you would like support from a parent who has already been on this journey. Robin


My heart goes out to you! We were in a very similar situation 2 years ago when our then 14 year old was regularly using marijuana and his brilliant, rational-yet-undeveloped mind tried to convince us that it was no big deal. For over a year things went from bad to worse and we tried everything. Therapy with someone that we now all refer to as ''the enabler'', private school for 9th grade, tutors, more restrictions, more freedom, family therapy, neuro-psych testing, developmental pediatricians--we even got him a mentor. Finally, we made the excruciating decision to send him away to a wilderness program followed by a therapeutic boarding school. We miss him like crazy but he is doing well--he's taking hard college prep classes in school, working and learning a lot of vocational skills, and putting tremendous effort into his group therapy experiences. He is discovering his true self and gaining authentic confidence rather than his former arrogant bravado. Every day I wish he could have made these leaps in maturity with our loving support, at home, in his community--but he could not.

What I wish I'd known then, and I want to share with you, are some resources that I did not know about but really helped. 1-I read a lot...two books in particular, from very different perspectives helped: To Change a Mind by John McKinnon, MD a follow-up to his popular An UnChanged Mind and then this seemingly unrelated (and somewhat Oprah-ish) but surprisingly comforting book called Comeback by Claire Fontaine. 2-I also received a lot of support from David Heckenlively, a therapist and educational consultant with offices in Walnut Creek and maybe Marin. He recommends a local organization called Coyote Coast that offers a lot of support services for teens. This is where we found our mentor, but it was too late and our son really had a chip on his shoulder about Coyote Coast--none the less, we respect the organization and still see a family therapist there who is really great. Every child is so different, and we tend to get defensive about our own child, so it was difficult for me to hear the advice of my friends, family and peer parents. Yet parents, sharing our stories, is so important...our kids are in trouble, we don't have to blame anyone or resent the schools or hate Facebook or feel guilty and ashamed. I believe we each are doing the best we can with no manual on any particular kid. Hang in there and write again if you need more support.

marijuana does harm the adolescent brain


Teen says she is smoking tea leaves, not marijuana

Dec 2010

My 15-year old daughter swears she has given up smoking marijuana and that the substance I found in her room (which did not look or smell like weed) was tea from tea bags. She says she just likes smoking, that she doesn't get high from smoking tea (which she smokes in a pipe just as she used to smoke weed). How dumb am I if I believe this? And if kids do, in fact, smoke tea, isn't smoking anything still potentially harmful to the lungs? Clueless.


I just asked my 20-something son about this. He says your daughter is probably smoking salvia. I googled this and found out that it's NOT that nice-smelling plant that grows in your garden - it's dried leaves from the plant Salvia divinorum, a psychoactive plant that grows in Mexico, which produces a hallucinogenic high lasting only a few minutes. It is not at all like the high from smoking marijuana though it is usually smoked in a pipe like marijuana. It ''closely mimics psychosis'' according to a New York Times article, and my son described strange behavior he's seen in friends who smoked salvia - rolling on the floor in a kind of trance, suddenly jumping up and running out the door, experiencing very vivid visions. Apparently there are lots of youtube videos of people who are high on salvia, if you want to confirm for yourself.

Salvia can be bought at smoke shops in Berkeley, according to my son, and looks like a black powdery substance, not unlike loose black tea. If you google it, you'll find lots of places on the internet to buy it too. It is still legal in most states, though in California it is over-21 only.

Here is the Wikipedia article about it (which is *suspiciously* sympathetic, so take it with a grain of salt): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvia_divinorum and here is a recent New York Times article about Jared Loughner's use of salvia (he's the teen who shot the Arizona congresswoman) : http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/18/us/18salvia.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=Salvia%20divinorum&st=cse

Learn something new every day


Hot off the presses: Check out this link and share with your teen. http://ofsubstance.gov/blogs/pushing_back/archive/2010/11/24/51734.aspx
DEA Moves to Control Five Chemicals Used to Make Synthetic Marijuana Office of the Director, ONDCP November 24, 2010 Today, DEA, under its emergency scheduling authority, began the process to classify five chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana as controlled substances. Use of synthetic marijuana, commonly called K2, Spice, and Blaze, has become increasingly popular among teens in the last few years. They are commonly sold in retail shops and over the internet. Since 2009, DEA has received reports of serious adverse events and hospitalizations occurring in people using these products. Today's action will make the possession or sale of these chemicals illegal for at least a year while the DEA and the Department of Health and Human Services study whether these chemicals and products should be permanently controlled. ONDCP Director Kerlikowske issued the following statement after DEA's announcement, ''At a time when youth drug use in America is on the rise, it is critical that parents act today to talk to young people about the harms of drug use, including synthetic marijuana products like Spice and K2 that are marketed as ''incense.'' I commend the DEA for using their emergency scheduling authority to protect public health by keeping these substances away from young people. Until the risks associated with ingesting these products and chemicals can be studied and understood, there is no place for them on the shelves of any legitimate business.''
Sam

18-year-old and medical marijuana for anxiety

Nov 2009

My 18 year old son has struggled with major anxiety/some depression and with lots of back and shoulder problems which are partly stress related and party related to real medical conditions. He wants to quit his pediatrician and get an internist. He uses medical marijuana, which I wish he did not do and has not been willing to take any other medication, other than a few short attempts with paxil, etc. He takes his health pretty seriously but gets defensive easily and needs a warm, understanding physician. I would greatly appreciate any feedback.


Hi. I noticed you mentioned medical marijuana. My teen son (17) has anxiety (and occasional panic attacks) and the marijuana makes his anxiety much worse. He now admits this (I used to know nothing according to him and he needed to hear it from other sources to think about it.) He now doesn't use it often, although he probably still does occasionally. When he does he knows what will happen and makes the conscious choice. Stopping marijuana has not cured him of his anxiety, but it does help because he feels more in control of his anxiety, which gives him some hope about dealing with it. I may be way off the mark here, but I thought you might want to know. If he is using the medical marijuana for another health issue, then I suppose the choice must be weighed between helpfulness and harmfulness. Hope this helps

17-year-old, addicted to pot, is hearing voices

Dec 2007

does anyone know about ''hearing voices?'' i have a 17 yr old who is about to be evaluated. he is addicted to pot, i believe is ''self medicating'' with. i have heard pot causes psychosis in some people. he is an inteligent kid, who went downhill fairly quickly. he laughs when there seems to be nothing funny, he seems to be more in his own world. has trouble sleeping at night, sleeps all day. could not get him up to go to school. almost totally unmotivated to do anything. thanks for any insight. anon


i am so sorry; this must be very frightening. you mentioned that your son is about to be evaluated, but not whether the evaluation is focused on substances or on mental health issues. the two very often overlap, and you probably need to be looking at both fronts together.

hearing voices is a sign of psychosis. i worry that there is something going on that is more than a bad reaction to pot. one possibility is that he is using more than weed; kids who are high can be way out there. (and there is a scary range of possible substances; all manner of street drugs, and even abuse of over the counter cold medications.) another possibility is mental illness -- some of the major mental illnesses tend to kick in between the late teens and early 20's.

this will be hard to sort out unless he is clean. you may want to consider talking with an educational consultant, such as bodin associates. they can help evaluate drug and mental health issues, as well as educational problems and programs to address all these spheres. and, help the family recover -- for kids under 18, the programs work hard to involve the family in the healing process. after 18, the kids are legal adults and it is MUCH harder to find solutions.

my son didn't hear voices, but he had huge behavioral and academic problems, and suddenly went from being the intelligent, sweet, shy boy we knew to acting like a monster. after family therapy and a new school didn't work, we tried thunder mountain, a teen rehab [substance] program in oakland. after he failed the rehab aftercare program rather spectacularly, we used bodin associates to find therapeutic programs for our son. i am convinced that the steps we took saved his life; it was that bad.

i strongly encourage you to act now. it all changes after they are 18; you no longer have the same options. [although, kids who get into a program before 18 have a better chance of continuing after. it is just that you can't make it happen any more once they are adults.]

take care. more kids end up with these hugely challenging problems than you would think. take care. another mom


The dark side of MJ use. Some of you may remember that pot is a mild hallucinogen, and some kids are more susceptible to this affect than others. He's probably high a lot more than you think. It's good he's being evaluated. I had this happen to me once, and I never smoked it again. He might also need a residential drug/psychological treatment center to get away from his source, and his lifestyle. Take care of him now, before he turns 18, because then you have no legal control anymore. -we all inhaled
I feel for all of you. I hope the evaluation comes to solid conclusions and you will get him the help that he obviously needs.

My daughter used to hear voices when she was much littler, she has grown out of it, but she went through a lot of therapy. We talked about them being her own inner voice, and even though they were saying scary things to her sometimes, I found that they were mostly telling the truth and she needed to learn to trust her inner voice. Sounds like your son might be going through something different and with the pot mixed in there, sounds complicated. Maybe he needs rehab of some sort. Get it started before he's 18 because after that he's on his own and you don't have control over what he does or doesn't do legally. I have a friend whose son was also addicted to pot, she sent him to a school in Montana and it really straightened him up. He was also diagnosed with dyslexia which made school that much harder to deal with. He's doing well now as a young adult. He's a ski instructor in Vermont, has a nice girlfriend, and is happy now. There is light at the end of the tunnel, just might be a little while til you feel like it's NOT the light of an oncoming train! good luck!


I don't know if this applies to your situation, but our child went through a similar period a couple of years ago. Our child was 10, no drugs, but began hearing voices, weeping hysterically from time to time, was afraid to be alone even for a minute and developed compulsions. We had the child evaluated by a psychiatrist who wanted to use drugs and ultimately ended up with a psychologist who helped us a great deal mostly with talking and behavioral therapy. We ultimately came to believe that our child's symptoms were most likely the sequalae of a viral illness. It is very scary. Best of luck to you. Anonymous
Dear Anon, Hearing voices.

(1) Get an appointment at your health care provider's mental health clinic. Note, if you have Kaiser, absolutely go straight to their mental health unit and avoid their scheduled evaluations at the teen clinics. (They are a scheduling disaster.)

(2) Look for signs of abuse of other drugs. Highly recommend searching through room, through car, through all personal possessions. Check small containers without labels. Collect anything that looks like a medication, with or without labels. (Pay special notice to Robitussin, either in gel cap form or as a liquid. It looks innocuous, but this is a highly abused drug that kids can buy over the counter. www.dxmstories.com)

(3) Who is your son hanging out with? All schools have their toxic teens. If you have a gut feeling about a kid, trust that feeling and do not believe your kids stories about them being OK. Start the process of intervening between your son and that kid. Also, talk to that kid's parents directly about any concerns. Ask them if their son/daughter smokes pot. Ask them if they, the parents, are providing it through a medical marijuana prescription.

(4) Do not do this on your own. Get help at the institution in your life that you really trust. That may be, or not be your son's school. Health care provider may be good. Church might be iffy, if it holds extreme tenets. You can call Alcoholics Anonymous, and they know groups that can handle the issue if its drugs for teens. (They are also good at picking up the phone right away 24 hours a day.)

(5) Has the following happened to you, while you were with your son? You are at home, or some other quiet place, and doing ordinary activities. Your son turns to you and asks, ''Mom(/dad), did you hear that?'' Just out of no where, for no reason. Keep that or a related example in mind, when talking to a therapist.

(6) I could repeat a bunch of questions here that an evaluator would ask, but that's their job. Just be observant and prepared to provide information.

(7) If and when it comes to medication, make sure you go over the reason for the specific prescription with the psychiatrist in careful detail. Read authoritative sources on it, and discount crazy Internet stories and web site.

That's it from me. Hopefully others can chime in. You have your work cut out for you. Good luck, Experienced_Dad


I just wanted to drop a quick note to confirm to you that the signs you're describing could all be indicative of chronic marijuana use. It may also be that the ''hearing voices'' is connected to that as well, but your child definitely needs to be seen by a professional for an evaluation. The signs you mentioned could also be related to other problems, co-occuring with the drug use. I would recommend a visit to the M.D. and a follow-up with a psychologist (Ph.D. or Psy.D.), marriage and family therapist (MFT) or social worker (LCSW). I hope you'll do this as quickly as possible. Michael Simon
Dear Anon, You wrote about my story with my now 21 year old son two years ago. After attending one year at a CSU school, he came home after becoming engrossed in smoking a LOT of medical marijuana which was very easy to get on campus. He spent 6 months de-toxifying which also included many periods of psychosis (including an evening at psychiatric hospital after a bad episode). This included “hearing voices” and laughing at seemingly nothing. When asked what he was laughing about he would say something stupid and not satisfying. He also did not sleep well and spent hours and hours alone in his room. I took him to see a psychologist and two psychiatrists all of whom thought he may be schizophrenic. After six months of this I finally convinced him to undergo testing with a neuro-psychologist who indicated that he was neither depressed nor psychotic. He did indicate though that there was some significant decrease in his executive functioning capabilities. His advice to me was that there was no medical solution (also, many kids this age won't take medication anyway on a regular basis). He would have to spend the next few years hoping to regain normal brain functioning. Sure enough, and slowly over the last two years, all of his psychoses dissipated. The laughing at nothing lasted the longest (over a year). He is now doing very well. Not back at school, but working in a good job full-time and successfully living on his own and reconnecting with close friends.

My advice to you is to first of all do whatever you can to get him off the marijuana. I do not believe the symptoms will ease or go away until he is clean and able to get it out of his system. The longer he smokes the worse the effects and the longer it will take him to recover. Also, you said he was being evaluated which is a great idea but make sure the person evaluating him does a lot of testing to be sure he isn’t either depressed or suffer from an organic psychosis. Chances are it is related to the marijuana. If you have any questions, want just to talk about what you are going through, or desire a reference from the medical persons we used, feel free to email me. Good luck. It is a devastating thing to go through as a parent and watch your son suffer like this. I understand completely. psl


such a lot of great responses! i want to echo a couple of points, as you seek the best way to help your child.

yes, definitely contact other parents in your kid's group, compare notes, try to intervene to the extent you can. i did not have all that much luck with cutting contact with problem kids [they will keep seeing them, perhaps with more vigor if you object]; but it was really helpful to be comparing notes with those parents willing to talk and collaborate. after my son went to a therapeutic program, several other kids in his group also went to programs; a few others ended up in juvie or involuntary programs, and the others got their acts together.

also, someone mentioned searching his room, and i highly recommend that, even if it is hard to preach privacy while not respecting it. he is a minor, and you have cause to be concerned, and you are responsible for his health. BE THOROUGH.

during the month or 2 that my son was in his rehab aftercare program, headed toward the big flunk, we found [among other things]:

* fermenting bottles, under his platform bed, of what could loosely be called wine;

* most of the makings of a methamphetamine lab [''a friend wanted to try it''];

* a lot of CCC [otc cold pills containing dxm, frequently shoplifted];

* other random pills;

* pipes for smoking drugs, roach clips;

* a bunch of rotting mushrooms collected from a nearby hill [''i once tried mushrooms, but i guess these aren't the same kind''];

* used packets of an emergency asthma med meant for use with a nebulizer [and not used with the nebulizer, since he cut up the tubing for his intended meth lab];

* and that's not all. he stole vicodan. there was stuff to cook pills into something that could be inhaled or swallowed. razor blades to chop pills. ack, it is hard to remember.

knowing is better than not knowing. we knew our son was messed up, but didn't know in our hearts how bad it was until we started really searching. best to you. another mom


To the parent that discussed their child going to a re-hab place in Oakland for teens, it's called Thunder Road, not Thunder Mountain. Just to let those of you who might be interested know the proper name. I worked there for a number of years, and it's great for some kids, and not so great for others. But definitely if your child is having serious drug/alcohol (which IS a drug) problems call them for an evaluation. anon
To the person whose son is ''hearing voices.'' I know this is very scary for you. It sounds like you are being brave in facing the problem and getting help. That's so important. Many kids deteriorate like this when they go away to college and in a way you are lucky that this is happening while he is still at home and you know about it and can get him the help he needs.

I'm glad you are having him evaluated. I don't know what type of professional is evaluating him, but it may take several opinions to get a clear picture of what is going on. Don't give up and make sure you are working with someone who you can trust and communicate with. Some psychiatrists out there won't tell the parents anything if they are seeing a 17 year old kid. Find one who will work with you as well as with your son. Definitely when he turns 18 things become more difficult legally so it's good you are getting on this now.

If he does have a mental illness, early treatment can make a huge difference in outcome. It's been shown that the brain is damaged by psychosis, but if medication is prescribed and taken early to control the psychosis the damage is much less.

Support group for parents of kids with mental illness: NAMI, 3rd Tuesday of the month 7 - 9PM Church on the NW corner of Marin and Stannage, Albany totally confidential, great group with facilitators

Best of luck! anon, too


16-year-old son is smoking pot, agrees to counseling

Dec 2007

I have a 16 year old son who started experimenting with pot and alcohol last year. He doesn't drink anymore because alcohol makes him sick, but he still is smoking pot. He gets excellent grades and has a good after school job and is generally a really good kid. Over the past 9 months several incidents have occurred and I have had to punish him and they were all weed related. Both my family & his dad's family have a history of substance abusers, so I am terrified that he will end up with a problem even if he doesn't have one now. We have a good relationship and can talk about things openly. He has agreed to see someone with me and go to a drug awareness class. Does anyone know about any classes or good counselors in the east bay? I have switched to Kaiser for next year because I have heard they have good teen programs. I would like to know how other parents have dealt with this problem. Thank you. anon


Hi, Berkeley High has an alcohol and drug abuse/recovery support group for students run by professionals and mental health interns. He can go to the student health center and ask to make a ''self referral'' for the group, he will fill out a form and one of the group leaders will contact him to discuss his needs. This is only an option if he is a Berkeley High, B-Tech or Independent studies student. BHS Staff
I've got to confess that I was unprepared to act after I discovered a small quantity of pot (2 pungent dime sized buds) in my son's desk drawer. I know he and I have to have another talk as it seems that all our previous talks haven't made much of a difference. So here's my plan and I am interested in the views of others who have been down this road. I'll remind him that I love him and inform him that I know he has drugs in the house. I'll let him know I've taken it away. I'll tell him that I found the pot in his room because I noticed its strong aroma and not because I was snooping. I'll ask him about his use. I'll remind him that using drugs, cigarettes, pills, pot, etc. can have consequences. They are illegal, prohibited at school, can cause behavior changes, can impact on friendships, school activities, grades, etc. I'll tell him I'm worried. And that I'm here and available to listen to him -- if he wants to talk about this or other things. I'll let him know I'll find someone else for him to talk to if he prefers. I want to remind him that using drugs is a problem -- no matter how good it makes him feel. That he is part of the solution. But now is the challenge of knowing what to do (after the talking) to deal with this since I know I can't stop it no matter how hard I try. If I come across too strongly, I fear it will make things worse. Suggestions? Anonymous
You are almost there! Let's hear it for being able to communicate with our children! And for your son being self-aware enough and willing to try things!

My daughter and I dealt with the same issues as you, substance abuse being in the family, good grades, etc. Plus, pot is a depressant and she had been struggling with that too. So, we just keep talking about it at home and in therapy. She had some bad experiences and saw what it was doing to her friends, and I bothered her so much about it I think she just doesn't want to deal with me if she comes home stoned! She came to her own realizations about it and made the decision to stop on her own which is really the only way a person can or will stop. Now, she may be pulling the wool over my eyes and smoking at friends houses, but I doubt it.

We went to an art therapist at one time and it was really helpful for both of us to get at feelings that you can't put words to. Working with images is really powerful in a way I didn't expect. She's not part of Kaiser. Her name is Ava Charney-Daynesh. She's in El Cerritto.

I heard from my daughter's step-mother that Kaiser has an excellent substance abuse program. It's not a 12-step program. I am not sure, but I think it's open to teens. good luck to both of you!


What are these tiny baggies I found in my son's bag?

May 2004

Okay so I needed a carry on bag for a recent flight and I thought of my son's fairly new day pack hanging in his closet (he's a freshman in college on the other side of the country). Truly I wasn't snooping. Anyway I found an assortment of 5 partially full bottles of alcohol. That doesn't bother me so much - I started drinking when I was 14 and never developed a real taste for it - rarely drink myself and have had a rather blase attitude towards it. Anyway, that's besides the point. In the bag I found a regular sized baggy filled with green 3/4'' square empty baggies printed with the playboy bunny logo all over them. They're too small for condoms. In my next conversation with him, I lightheartedly told him about my discoveries and asked what the baggies were. His response - ''I dunno. They're not mine.'' Yeah right (I actually said). Well, since he's not forthcoming with any information, does anyone out there know what these are? Many thanks. anon


Hi. In response to your question about the baggies, they are generally used for marijuana. The size you describe would be what is called a ''dime bag'', that is, a baggie to hold about 10 dollars worth of weed. These bags come in different designs from ice cream cones, skulls and crossbones, peace signs, etc. If he had a large quantity, my guess would be he may be selling pot, but that is a rather big assumption to make. Since there wasn't any actual marijuana in his bag, it's hard to say. And because your teen is an adult, it is his risk that he is taking in terms of getting caught. I would make it clear to him that you do not want him bringing drugs into your home. His response that, ''They're not mine'' is the classic stock response of just about any teen who gets caught with something they shouldn't have. If they weren't his, he wouldn't have them. Again, being that he is an adult, I'm not sure what approach I would take besides talking to him and letting him know your concerns and feelings.

Now, as to the ''I wasn't snooping'', I have to disagree. I know that you had a legitimate reason for going into the bag, but you just can't go into your kids closet and poke about their personal belongings. One thing that I have always made a conscious effort of in raising my son (who is now 16) is to respect his privacy. I will never enter his room without knocking, I don't go through his things if I'm ''looking'' for something. I ask him for what I need if it is in his room. If he's not home, I wait. This respect of my son's space comes from my experience of a continual violation of my privacy growing up. My mother would read my diary and question the contents, open sealed letters before I could mail them and questions the contents, rummage through my clothing and jewelry, take things then say I gave them to her, etc. To this day, I have major trust issues and try my hardest to never over- step my son's boundaries.

I'm not berating you by any means, especially because I'm sure what you found caused you great concern, but you need to understand that your position in discussing what you found in your son's bag is on shaky ground with him. He will not be able to take it seriously because he will more than likely feel that you violated his privacy and will surely not be happy.

Just stand your ground in terms of drugs in your home, and realize that he is at the age where experimentation with pot and alcohol are common. Not to say you should be okay with it, but just let him know your concerns as someone who loves him and wants to see him make the right choices for his future.

Good luck, and perhaps it's time to buy a day pack of your own. Rebecca


Thought you might enjoy the interchange I had with my son about the little baggies the mom found in her son's day pack.
[original anon. request cut and pasted...] Any insight? This came to Parents of Teens. --''Mom''

haha, wow, i thought you guys were children of the 70's! The baggies are used to put marijuna in. The cost of the weed depends on how big the baggie is. If they were small ones then they were probably dime bags (10 dollars). If he's got a bunch of them, then he might be dealing weed. But if they weren't full then you can't say that for sure. He might be using them for something else besides weed but i doubt it. --''Son''

haha yourself. you know me. I should have asked DAD. But, 3/4inch square? that's not much to go on, is it? seems too small for weed. --''Mom''

no, thats the right size. its the most expensive commodity by weight in the world... or close to it. --''Son''

well, in my day I remember it coming in sandwich size bags. But, of course, you could get big bottles of RC Cola for 5 cents as well. Another sign of aging, I suppose. --''Mom''

-and, by the way, I just now figured out, 5 years later, that the bottles I found in his gym bag were his! He told me they belonged to another kid. (And, in my naivete and desire to think that he didn't drink, I believed him.) Anon


this is in response to the post about a bunch of tiny baggies that a mom found in her son's backpack.

i don't know exactly, but i'd be thinking ''drugs.'' or more specifically, that the tiny baggies are to package some kind of drugs for sale.

if what i found in my son's wallet several times is any indication, marijuana is now packaged in bitty ziplocks, but they are maybe 1 1/2 - 2'' square -- larger than what you found. but we noticed stickers or logos on some of the bags, which we took as a marketing tool. [they weren't his, he ''found'' them, by the way.]

the ''it's not mine'' excuse is old as dirt, and sure, it's somewhat plausible. but is it reasonable?

our son's substance problem snuck up on us, partly because we thought it's not unusual for teens to experiment, and partly because we didn't want to be intrusive and ignored the signs. ''not forthcoming with information'' is one of the signs.

in my mind, signs of dealing are worse than signs of use -- for one thing, there can be huge criminal consequences. i can't think of what a bunch of such tiny bags would be used for, besides packaging drugs.

i'm not sure confronting him with suspicions based only on the baggies will get you anywhere at this point. but perhaps it's a good idea to evaluate whether you have any other worrisome signs, that were easier to overlook -- as a college freshman across the country, you probably expected changes anyway. substance abuse can produce problems like defiance or other behavior problems, drop in grades, disinterest in activities he previously liked, new friends you don't know, secretiveness, unusual moods, etc. etc. does he seem to have more money or possessions than you would expect?

perhaps all the incentive he needs is to know mom's not stupid, and she has an eye out for his welfare. good luck! anon mom


Just to put a different spin on the little baggies thing. I have dozens of them in two different sizes. I use them for storing open chunks of sculpey and beads. You can buy them at any bead store very inexpensively.

I found out about their 'other' use once when my teen aged daughter was going through my art drawers and found the stack of empty bags (you buy them in large bundles). Her eyebrows dissappeared into her bangs and she turned to me and said ''MOM!...MOM?''

Educating mom she called it. Anyway, she had seen them often with sculpy in them and never thought about them in the 'drug' context until a) she saw them empty b) was in high school.

I use them to store tons of stuff. Extra seeds after we have opened the paper packages they come in, safety pins, earings, to tape screws or nails to shelving or furniture in storage, etc. Anything for which a sandwich baggie (which we use extensively too) is too big. The kids freely help themselves to them for their own small thing storage needs. My grandson (4) uses them to keep together the pieces of the hotwheels he takes appart. My son (13) uses them to store beads for earings he has designed.

Queen of baggies


[Editor Note: this discussion continued as Teen's Privacy vs. What I Need to Know]

Questions about Adults Using Marijuana around Teens


Other parents let kids smoke pot in their house

Nov 2010

Against my better judgement, I allowed my 15 year old daughter to attend a party at a boy's house. I do not know the boy but kids she knew were to be there as well. She revealed later that it ended up being only her and 3 boys. The kids had gathered with the intention of getting high. My daughter says that the parents in the house knew the kids were doing pot. This was her first time smoking, and she did not get too much in her system. We are cracking down to keep her from doing this again and discussing other self-destructive behavior that has come up recently. Now what to do about the parents in this house? We are not going to allow her to go to their house again. Do I confront them? I believe what my daughter told me. The parents did know what was going on. Are they clueless or what? Anon


This is such a tricky situation, and I'm sure you'll hear from a lot of people. My personal strategy with things like this is to try to stick to the facts as I know them, and avoid confrontations or judgements. In my experience, teenagers, as much as we love them, are not always so forthcoming with the truth, so if you're getting the story from your daughter you may be missing critical details. I'd call the parents, tell them what your assumption was (that your daughter was going to their house for a party with the following people), tell them what your daughter told you (that she and three boys were smoking pot in their house) and see what they say. Their reaction will tell you a lot about whether they allow pot to be smoked in the house. Even if they say they think it's fine for kids to smoke in their house, you can calmly tell them your preferences are different, and then hammer out the details with your daughter (she's not going over to that boy's house again.) Good luck. I find all this so challenging with my own teenager. But I am always surprised (and heartened) to find that what my daughter tells me ''MOM, everyone is doing it...'' is often contradicted by the parents themselves. anon
Before they were seniors in high school, when my girls went to anyone's house I made it a point of meeting one of the parents when I dropped them off. If they were going there after school or if another parent was transporting them, I would call ahead of time to make sure a parent was going to be there to supervise. At 14, I would even ask other parents I knew if it was a new friend. My daughter got involved in a situation once, but she ended up being in the middle of a troublemaker and her best friend. No drugs, no drinking. Parents all watched out for each others kids. Its OK to be overprotective - just dont smother. Pot is still a drug and its use by minors will always be against the law. Your daughters HS campus probably has a campus officer. Ask them what to do about the parents. You may want to call them and do a Ralphie's mom thing and say, ''Do you know what your son was doing the other night?'' Good luck. got them to adulthood

Parents openly smoking pot with teenagers

March 2010

My son is now a Junior and is finally taking school seriously and getting decent grades. He's always been more of a social person and we've always been impressed with the array of friends he has. More recently, he has been spending Friday and Saturday nights with friends in the Berkeley Hills - hanging out, jacuzzi etc. and I learn they're all smoking Pot.....and the parents smoke, too! I don't understand how parents can be so irresponsible. The message my son is getting is that 'it's OK to smoke, it helps relieve the stress'. (I think there are other ways to relieve stress - like physical excercise etc) The problem for me is my husband smokes from time to time (never in front of me or the kids), but my son found his stash last year......so I'm struggling with how to deal with this. Any suggestions? Anon


What if you called the parents, told them of your concerns, and said that if they insisted on toking up while your kid was visiting, he wouldn't be allowed to visit any more? They have a right to do what they want in their own home, but you have a right to keep your kid away from it if it bothers you.

That's one thing. The other is something we did to immunize our kids, so to speak: make jokes about stoners, e.g. '''How many potheads does it take to change a lightbulb?' 'I don't know, how many?' 'Uh . . . [dazed look] ... how many what?''' We never tried to enforce an absolute prohibition on using it, or talk about it in ''reefer madness'' terms; that would be ridiculous in Berkeley. But we made it clear that there was nothing exotic, rebellious, or exciting about it, it was just another way to get stupid, something that lots of people did from time to time but that no one with an actual life would do frequently. So far our kids (26 and 20 years old) have shown little interest in it. John


Honesty might be something that comes to mind. Currently pot is legal for medicinal purposes in California and it may become legal in an upcoming ballot. Talking openly about it is not the same as smoking openly in front of your son. This indeed may be extremely difficult, but it is probably not the most difficult thing you will need to speak to a teenager about. This is an opportunity to share some basic information, cautions, and find out what your son thinks about all this.It will undoubtedly ease the hurdles of other upcoming conversations and let your son know he can come to you to talk about things he needs to ask about. Otherwise the value lessons he is getting right now is from the hot tub parents of his friend. share your concerns, and angst
We are aware that our teenage son and many of his friends smoke pot. We have discussed this with the other parents. Some parents have opted to be a ''safe house.'' Meaning - they would rather have their kid smoking pot in a safe place, instead of hanging out in park or some other place where they could get into trouble. Some of these parents have prescriptions and smoke pot themselves. They are all responsible adults, who own their own homes and are working professionals (accountants, lawayers, etc...)However, these parents never smoke pot in front of the kids. Tolerating is one thing, but parents don't need to hang out a get stoned with/or in front of their kids friends. You should discuss your feelings about smoking pot with the friends parents. They should understand. I know other parents drink wine/beer in front of kids, or smoke cigarettes. In my opinion, smoking pot is no different. All things in moderation. Of course, it's best to teach your teen that these things are not for kids, etc.. But, not all teens accept this logic. Our college age son wasn't interested in smoking pot(until college), but our younger son is - every kid is different. anon

Our 13-year-old caught my husband smoking pot

Dec 2009

My husband smokes pot a few minutes a couple of times each week. He doesn't get 'stoned' but seems more mellow after smoking. He is discrete and up till now neither of our teenage boys had any knowledge of their father's behavior. He drinks a couple of beers each day and takes no other substances. I don't smoke and I drink a glass of wine each day.

My husband was smoking pot out on the back patio at 3am Sun am when the whole house was sound asleep (he was up late cooking for a party on Sunday). For whatever reason our 13 year old got up and saw my husband from a distance. My 13 year old said nothing at the time to his father but reported to me what he had seen the next morning.

My 13 year old says smoking is a disgusting habit and is fearful of an early death for his father. He was angry at me for 'allowing' my husband to smoke. I did not correct his perception that his dad was smoking tobacco. I did correct his perception that I could control my husband's behavior.

Sunday evening my husband and son talked about the incident and made a deal, my husband said he would stop smoking if my son would not tell his brother. I registered my displeasure upon hearing of this bargin from my husband. A: he doesn't plan to quit and B: I hate that he's made his own son a co-conspirator.

After hearing me out my husband then agreed he had to come clean to both sons, but hasn't figured out what he is going to say. He has smoked pot in this manner for years, so is unlikely to quit. Does anyone have an advice as how to handle this situation? anon


We dealt with a similar situation with grandparents who are regular pot smokers and talking to our children about it. It is a very difficult situation given what the kids are taught in school about marijuana and that fact that it is illegal. I would recommend being totally honest - anything less and then the kids don't trust you when they find out what you omitted or misrepresented.

After we spoke to our kids we had Grandpa have an independent conversation with them where he explained that it was an adult decision and not something they should choose as a lifestyle, etc...

It is a very complex issue and we tried to liken it to having a glass of wine versus being drunk all the time and needing moderation. At the end of the day I feel better about being honest with the kids though I am no less conflicted in how I feel about habitual use and have done what I can to communicate what a confusing situation it is for me as well - Good luck. be honest


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