Recently, I have noticed a sharp increase in weed use in my teen clients. Why are teens so likely to smoke? Here are 3 reasons and how you can use these reasons to connect with them more closely about the dangers of weed.
IMPORTANT NOTE to parents: These talking points are suggested for you to use from a place of curiosity. Ask the questions in a gentle and open way when your teen wants to talk. Don’t force them to talk about it and don’t use this time as a lecture opportunity or get them in trouble.
Teens are Wired to Seek Novelty and Risk.
Daniel Siegel, M.D. has studied the teenage brain extensively, and reports that American adolescent brains start to “prune” around the age of 12 years old; adolescence is a period of “remodeling the brain.” It is nature’s way of preparing adolescents to leave the home by removing the stuff they no longer need (say the ability to play the piano proficiently) and strengthening the stuff they do need or want to retain. Novelty or “new stuff” stimulates the release of dopamine (rewards circuitry) more strongly in adolescents and therefore increases the teen’s desire to seek risk and danger. AND the adolescent brain is also focused more on the reward often than on the potential consequences, causing teens to experiment with high risk behaviors at a much higher rate than at any time in life. (Check on this video to hear Dr. Siegel talk more about this phenomenon).
What types of activities do teens and teens do that are novelty and risk seeking in your world/school/community? Have you heard stories or do you know someone who engages in high risk activities? Are there any that you are curious to try or have tried? (You won’t get in trouble – we are having a discussion) What do you know about the brain during adolescents and the “pruning” process?
Weed is Everywhere and Easy to Get.
Marijuana is increasingly accessible to teenagers, and it is much easier to obtain than alcohol for most minors. For many teens, it has become the go-to activity for hanging out with friends. Simply Snap Chat a dealer and get a supply within minutes, paying with cash or Venmo so nothing is trackable.
Have you been around weed? If you wanted to buy some, do you know how? Do you know about or have your experienced being “high”? What is it like? Do you ever feel or worry you might feel pressure to try weed? What are your plans for handling those situations? What do you think our expectations are of you in those situations?
Weed can Decrease Worry, Anxiety, and Stress in the Moment.
Short-term benefits to smoking weed do exist. Teens are more stressed in this day and age than ever before, with soaring rates of anxiety and depression. The attraction to weed is often based on the short term relief they may feel when high – worry-free, relaxed, and chill. The long-term risks of weed, including psychological dependency, long term memory loss, increased need, and exacerbation of symptoms are often not on their radar because they seek immediate relief from their symptoms.
Do you often feel stressed or overwhelmed? What are the sources of stress in your life? What strategies have you used that help you cope? What strategies do your friends use? Would you find it helpful to talk to a family friend, spiritual mentor, or a therapist for more support in coping?
At Austin Family Counseling, we have a team of therapists who specialize in counseling tweens and teens during this vulnerable and ever-changing time of development. Please call us or email us for more information about how you can get support for your child or yourself!