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Teens and Marijuana

Air Date: 08/04/10 Dr. Rebecca Jankovich, PhD can be reached at 322-1839.8-5-10 Teens and Marijuana Every week I talk with another set of parents struggling to face the fact their teenager is smoking marijuana. It's so hard for parents to believe their child is "one of those" kids experimenting with drugs, a kid who will look you in the face and tearfully protest that they're not using, when indeed they are. The National Institute of Drug Abuse has found that 48% of our teenagers admit to having tried marijuana, and 21% used in the last month. Don't think that your teen couldn't be using because they have no money; kids tell me they don't need money to get weed because their friends give them what they need. Don't believe what your teen says when they tell you they've quit once you busted them. Over and over I watch parents in my office deal with the disappointment and feelings of failure that wash over them when they realize their teen is still using despite all his protests to the contrary. If your teen's grades have dropped, if they're avoiding hanging out in the living areas with the rest of the family, if something feels not quite right to you, say something like a change in your child's drive or motivation, consider the possibility they may be smoking dope. Check out their room and the car they use to search for any paraphernalia related to marijuana usage: bongs, rolling papers, baggies of dope. Look through their internet browser and see which web sites they've been visiting. Read their texts and their emails to see if there are references to drug use. If you find something alarming, don't believe it's someone else's and just got left in your child's possession which is the usual story I hear. Of course you'll ask them if they're using drugs, and of course they'll tell you no. The only sure way to know if your kids use marijuana is to drug test them. The Office of National Drug Control Policy advocates for drug testing teens so we have early identification of kids in trouble; when we know they're in trouble, we can help them. Of course they'll protest that you don't trust them and drug testing is a violation of their rights; nonetheless, in order to protect your kids from drug abuse, you must know if they're using and you CANNOT trust their word. Painful, but true. At this age, their friends and their pleasures outweigh their loyalty and obligations to you. They'll lie, but urine tests don't lie. Parents I talk with just don't think it's necessary to go so far as to drug test; they don't want to insult their kids or give them a reason to be more hostile than they already are. You are responsible to protect your kids from their own bad decisions; you should not trust them to always make the right choice because they're kids; what you should trust is that they'll make mistakes, their judgment will be immature and it's your job to protect them. You can at least try to protect them from drugs by drug testing so you know early on if your child is using. It's easiest if you start in middle school establishing a random drug testing policy; it's just what you do to give your kids a reason to say "no" to drugs because they know they're going to be tested. If your teen hasn't been busted for drugs, you start by saying you're going to give them a good reason to say "no" by having a home policy of random drug testing. If they want the phone, the ipod, the car, then they'll comply. Be aware the refusal to comply very likely means they would test dirty. If your teen has been busted, then your reasons for testing are easy to explain. A common mistake I see parents make is they start out gung ho with the testing and then life takes over and they trail off; kids know that about you, so set yourself a random schedule to test and stick with it.Parents ask me how do you go about drug testing? You no longer have to get a doctor's order and a blood test. There are many online sites where you can buy an in home urine test and you can ask your local pharmacy if they carry the kits. Check out the online site "drugtestyourteen" and the site for the National Institute of Drug Abuse. It's a simple process: your teen pees into a cup, you stick a strip of paper in the cup and the color it turns tells you if your child used marijuana. A common argument in my office when the teen tests dirty is to say they haven't smoked in the last month, since they were caught by their parents, so this dirty test is just because it takes 30-45 days to get out of their system. Maybe. If they were smoking daily for a very long time, it might take 6 to 8 weeks for the urine to test clear, according to internet sites that teach teens how to beat the urine tests. If they were using only a couple of times a week, it could take 7-14 days to test clear. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana; it's fat soluble and can't be eliminated from the body very easily despite all the hype online teaching kids and employees how to beat drug tests.The lessons here are: yes, your child could be using; no, you can't believe what they tell you despite the remorse they show; drug testing doesn't lie and it's easy to use; you have the responsibility as well as the right to protect your child from their mistakes.