My Teen Needs Help Now
Did you know?
Children whose parents tell them about the risks of drug use are significantly less likely to use drugs, according to the Partnership for Drug Free Kids’ 2012 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study.
Like most of us, you probably have your own views and beliefs about alcohol, drug use, and other issues. And many are likely based on your own experiences as a teen, your family or social culture, or on things you’ve read or seen on TV.
But as parents, it’s important to check our beliefs to make sure we’re working with the facts when it comes to these issues—so we can give our teens the information they need to navigate through today’s complex world. After all, since you are your child’s #1 influence when it comes to drugs and alcohol, you need to be sure you’re sharing the right information.
Recognize any of these statements?
According to research, most children respond to clear rules and consequences. Studies have also shown that underage youths choose not to drink if they believe they will get caught by the police. Many children seek the approval of their parents and choose not to drink if they feel their parents would consider it “very wrong.”
In addition, research shows that when the drinking age is 21, those younger than 21 drink less and continue to drink less through their early twenties. The lower rates of drinking before 21 doesn’t mean there are higher rates of drinking after 21. In fact, it’s just the opposite—the amount of drinking is lower.1
It’s up to you whether or not to tell your child about any past marijuana use. But if you do—or if your child brings up adults they know who currently smoke pot—it’s important to keep the focus on how much you care about your child and how marijuana could affect her health and her future.
First, you and your child should know that the marijuana that your child may be introduced to today is much stronger and more potent than the marijuana you may have tried as a teen. In fact, a study in Colorado showed that the average content of the psychoactive chemical THC in marijuana (the chemical that produces that feeling of being “high”) rose from under 4% in 1983 to more than 17% in 2015.2 And in Washington State, the average THC content in marijuana from one vendor was measured at 21.7% in July, 2015.3
This is a problem because greater marijuana potency can increase the risk of unexpected medical complications. Marijuana can also contain dangerous chemicals and be laced with other drugs.4
Second, you and your child should know that today, there is growing evidence that THC comes with risks—especially for adolescent brains that are still developing.5 Even if adults appear to smoke marijuana safely—and even if it becomes legal for adult use—marijuana can have a very negative impact on a young person’s brain and life. It can limit judgment and self-control, damage the brain and body, and keep teens from doing their best in school, at work, and in learning new skills. These effects can cause problems for a teen now—and far into the future.6 Get more tips for talking to your child about marijuana.
Rather than helping teens cope with alcohol use later in life, early drinking may actually add to the danger. According to the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey, adolescents who drink before age 15 are 4 times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21. The survey showed that 40% of kids who begin drinking before age 15 will develop alcohol dependence at some point in their lives. That proportion drops to below 10% for those who begin drinking after age 21.7
Many people hold European youths up as an example of more responsible drinking. However, recent research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that adolescents in the United States drink less, binge-drink less, and get drunk less often than their peers in European countries where the drinking age is considerably lower. The notion that early supervised drinking “trains” adolescents to consume alcohol responsibly is not supported by existing research.8
We now know a lot more about the negative effects of underage drinking. It’s not safe to give your child any amount of alcohol. Since underage drinking is illegal in Vermont, it also sends a confusing message to your child about obeying the law.9
Ninety percent of addictions start in the teen years,10 according to the Partnership™ for Drug-Free Kids’ 2012 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study. And studies show that the younger a person starts drinking or using drugs, the more likely he or she will develop substance abuse issues.11
Think back on your own teen years. Are you able to say that nothing negative ever happened at a party that involved underage drinking or drug use, or that you don’t know someone who developed an addiction problem that started when you were teenagers? High school is a stressful environment, and adding drinking or drugs to the mix can be dangerous.12
Yes, marijuana is a plant. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be harmful! From poison ivy to hemlock, there are many plants that are anything but harmless.
Short-term marijuana use is linked to problems with learning, memory, and judgment as well as increased heart rate and motor vehicle crashes. And regular use is linked to problems later in life such as addiction, mental health issues, and decreased IQ.13
You should also know that today’s marijuana is even stronger than in the past, contains dangerous chemicals, and can be laced with other drugs. Plus, it’s illegal for people under 21 in all U.S. states.14 Get tips for talking to your child about marijuana.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that nearly one-third of underage drinking deaths involve impaired driving. The rest involve alcohol poisoning, homicides, suicides, and accidents.15 And according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, using marijuana while driving has been shown to more than double the risk of getting into an accident.16 Alcohol and other drug use can also put your teen at increased risk of sexual assault, HIV infection, accidental overdose, and long-term addiction.
The effects of underage and binge drinking are just as dangerous at home. Your child may have friends that are taking medications or have a history of addiction—details you will not know in advance. In addition, hosting an underage drinking party or providing alcohol to a minor are both against Vermont law.17
Don’t assume that nothing you say will get through. Children listen to their parents more than you think.18 And, according to the 2012 Partnership™ Attitude Tracking Study, children whose parents teach them about the risks of drugs are significantly less likely to use drugs.19
One study showed that only 3 out of 10 parents of 15- to 16-year-olds think their children drink, compared to the 6 out of 10 teens who reported drinking.20 That’s why it’s so important to monitor your child and take the warning signs seriously.
Your child may have some dangerous ideas about alcohol or drugs and may not know how to separate fact from fiction. Teens may not know that different beverages can have different alcohol content levels and may believe fresh air or coffee can sober them up.21 And there are plenty of peers available to give your teen their “expert” opinion on different drugs and assure her there’s little risk involved.22 Get armed with the facts—and talk to your child regularly.
When it comes to using marijuana or drinking underage, there’s really no good choice.
Just like alcohol, marijuana is illegal for people under 21 in all U.S. states.24
And just like alcohol, it can be very harmful—especially for teens. Marijuana use changes teens’ brains, bodies, and behaviors. Short-term marijuana use is linked to problems with learning, memory, and judgment as well as increased heart rate and motor vehicle accidents. And regular use is linked to problems later in life such as addiction, mental health issues, and decreased IQ.25
And just in case you’re thinking of the pot you may have smoked as a teen—you should know that today’s marijuana is stronger than in the past, contains dangerous chemicals, and can be laced with other drugs.26 Get tips for talking to your child about marijuana.
Marijuana may now be legal for adults in some states. But, like alcohol, that doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. Short-term marijuana use is linked to problems with learning, memory, and judgment as well as increased heart rate and motor vehicle accidents. And regular use is linked to problems later in life such as addiction, mental health issues, and decreased IQ.27 You should also remember that marijuana remains illegal for people under 21 in all U.S. states.28 For more information, visit the Vermont Department of Health’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program and the National Institute on Drug Abuse Website for Teens, or download your free Marijuana Talk Kit.
When people say “you can’t die from using marijuana,” it’s often because they’re thinking of death as a direct result of the drug—like a drug overdose or alcohol poisoning. But while it’s true that it’s very unlikely someone would overdose on marijuana, many people do get hurt and even die as a result of marijuana’s effects on their judgment, perception, and coordination. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana was a factor in more than 370,000 visits to the Emergency Department in 200929. And using marijuana while driving has been shown to more than double the risk of getting into a car crash.30 For more information, visit the Vermont Department of Health’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program and the National Institute on Drug Abuse Website for Teens.
According to the Partnership™ for Drug-Free Kids’ 2012 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, more people die from abusing prescription pain relievers than cocaine and heroin combined.31
Studies have shown that talking to children about suicide does not plant the idea in their minds. First, most teens already know about suicide either from their peers or from the media.32 And offering them the chance to talk about something once considered very secret helps to make the topic less scary—and ultimately less powerful—to children.33 In fact, statistics from two long-term studies show that areas with suicide prevention programs for youths tend to have lower suicide rates.34 For more information about suicide and teens, visit the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, UMatter: the Vermont Youth Suicide Prevention Project, and the Vermont Suicide Prevention Center.