Marijuana Use by Older Teens

Parent Q&A

Pot smoking at BHS Nov 13, 2017 (11 responses below)
My straight A high schooler is one of the Grizzly Peak Stoners? Oct 8, 2017 (5 responses below)
Parenting a pot smoking teen Sep 13, 2016 (18 responses below)
  • (Long-ish post, with a specific question at the end) On Halloween I discovered that our 17-year-old son who is generally a "good kid" (does well in school, lovely to be around, nice friends, involved in sports & playing music ) was making a pipe "for a friend."  

    The day before he had been baking a bunch of metal pipe fittings in our oven, which gave off a terrible smell. I said, "Hey, what's that awful smell?" He said he was heating them to remove the grease to make something for his steampunk Halloween costume. Then, on the afternoon of Halloween, as he and a friend was getting ready to go to a nearby party, I saw he had what were clearly mesh pipe screens. As he was fiddling with them in our family room I asked what they were. He said something about "straining." His face showed that he was clearly lying. I gave him a look but didn't say anything as I didn't want to embarrass him in front of his friend (he doesn't bring friends over all that often). When he got home I asked him "What's up with the pipe screens?"

    He said, "I was making a  pipe as a gift for a friend."

    I was like "Yeah, right, that is the oldest excuse in the book" and we had a reasonable talk about it.

    Him saying I know smoking is not healthy for the teen brain, I would never smoke on a school night, I do know people who smoke too much and twice I and friends have done "interventions" for kids who were smoking "too much," as well as some nonsense about how his figuring out how to make a pipe is cool and "maker-y."  

    Me saying I'm concerned by several things 1) He lied to me about what he was doing, both in baking the pipe fittings and when I initially asked him about the screens 2) Actively making paraphernalia for smoking pot goes a step beyond occasionally smoking at a party and 3) Giving that as a gift to the "friend who smokes" is validating "pot smoker” as part of their identity and is validating "I think pot smoking is cool" as part of your identity. And if the pipe is actually for you, it is also investing in pot smoking as part of your identity.

    At the end of our conversation, he asked what the consequence was going to be. I said I wanted to think about it.

    The next evening, I told our son that he would be grounded for 2 weeks and that while grounded I wanted him to read a book or some articles about the impact of pot on the teen brain and write a short essay about it so that we could then discuss it and have a shared understanding.

    I should also note, I'm not surprised he has been occasionally smoking pot, I mean he's 17 year old in SF. His school has very good drug education, but there is a strong history of addiction and alcohol abuse on his dad's side, so I feel extra concern.  

    My questions:

    1) Do you know of any good articles/books on this topic? They should be scientifically based and not ridiculously alarmist. This is a smart kid with a strong bullsh*t detector.

    2) Any opinions on the consequence I gave? We've had to do very little in the way of "discipline" over the years. He was grounded once at the end of Freshman year for staying out too late, and now, Jr. year, this is the next issue that has come up.

    Thank you for reading and advice

    I have a senior who is smoking pot.  He used it first just because he liked it, then to self-medicate as he's developed depression that we didn't know about for a while.  So my advice is to talk to your son and find out *why* he's smoking, "for real".  Ask him if he's experiencing any emotional issues.  Teen boys don't like talking or even thinking about that, but they have to learn otherwise they try to escape their emotions by whatever means they can, and then eventually the emotions clobber them anyway. If he's using pot for that, there are other things he can/should be doing to get help.

    Books and articles?  I'm sure your son has seen/heard/read enough and won't care.  I've read a lot on the subject, and for me it comes down to that it's harmful for young brains to use pot consistently, but there's no clear guidelines as far as how much and how often would make for consistent use. Even to me, the literature doesn't prove much, and I doubt a teen would be convinced by that either. With my kid, I've come to a conclusion that the only way I could be sure he's not smoking/using pot at least for a certain period of time is to enroll him in a chemical dependency program with our HMO, Kaiser.  Some high schools have on site programs like that, too.  The Kaiser program I'm looking to enroll my son in lasts 8 weeks, during which he'd have to be tested for using *anything*, including pot.  Every week, there are two meetings: one with other teens, and another one with teens and their parents.  So, both a teen and his family get educated, and the teen is monitored for use.  It's a bit of work, for both a teen and his parents, but everyone is on the same page and has to attend.

    There's also a 12 week program for cases where teens need more support.  Typically, teens get enrolled in programs like that when they get caught with pot or other illegal substances, and are ordered by court to enroll.  If you really want your son to be educated and held accountable, enroll him in a program like that before a judge gets him to do that.  Just giving him articles to read won't do much.

    I wish pot plants never existed!!!  Along with other substances!

    First, let me say, I'm impressed with your calm in this difficult situation.  Second, it's good you're taking it seriously.  I'm further down a road with my 18-year-old that started in a similar way.  Many teens can experiment, even use regularly, without impacting daily functioning, but for those with high risk factors such as those you've noted, it can turn into something much more complicated fast. Although our situation has further complicating factors, for my teen, cannabis use became the primary coping strategy, leading to significant cannabis use that impacts ability to maintain daily functioning.  The cannabis available today varies in potency depending on form, including extremely high potency concentrates. It can be addictive, particularly to the developing brain.

    In response to your first question, the New York Times ran a piece on October 6, 2018 titled "I'm Just a Middle-Aged House Dad Addicted to Pot".  Perhaps not what you were thinking, but it's worth a read as it addresses the problem for some not for others issue, and has the accessibility with no BS factor.

    In response to your second question, rather than a direct answer, I recommend the website, particularly under "Learn More", "Find e-Books, Guides & More", "Parents' 20 Minute Guide" I found helpful.

    I wish I would have known better how to set firm, but loving, boundaries sooner, and had my teamwork with my spouse in line. Best of luck to you.

  • Pot smoking at BHS

    (11 replies)

    My 15 yr old son is a straight A student, very talented, sensitive and extremely driven and ambitious. We have a positive and close relationship. As soon as he got to BHS he got caught up in pot smoking and was suspended form school on one occasion. I'm divorced and his dad totally minimized the issue and reused to get him help, despite a mediator and therapist both strongly encouraging it. The summer was good, he was a camp counselor and really seemed to stay out of any "trouble". Now he's back in school and academically things are great but this weekend my son told me again how much he's smoking pot (i think almost daily, at least weekly), that everyone at BHS smokes, that its really a struggle to  be social and *not* smoke since its just the norm there. He's active in sport (lacrosse, all smokers!), works out, does mountain biking, photography, etc so its not like he's got a ton of downtime. He's super responsible about school work, chores, etc. He wants to try and quit but feels under so much social pressure. In talking with other parents I've found most don't think its a big deal and dont want to know what their kids are up to. Having grown up with my dad smoking pot all day every day I'm far from naive or over protective about this stuff but I see the impact its having and also the pressure my son feels under. And I also work in a hospital and see the effects of some of this stuff the kids are smoking these days; its just not the same as what we grew up with. How are others dealign with this? I dont see the sense in coming down hard with limits as I cant track what hes doing all the time (esp when hes at his dads) and I dont want him to stop being open and honest with me. I'm interested in getting him support, or even considering different school situations if that would mean less pressure (guessing not). Sadly this has been the biggest downside of raising a kid in berkeley/ at BHS.

    RE: Pot smoking at BHS ()

    Your letter scares me so much, because I see my social and high achieving 11 year old in the same place in a few years. All your fears are justified, and shame on your ex and BHS for not taking this way more seriously and sending a message of disapproval. I also think you're right not to slam down on him but to keep lines of communication open. I have a few suggestions - first off, buy The Teenage Brain, read it and share with your son. It's written by a physician who demonstrates in pretty clear ways, with lots of data to back her points, that kids brains are "optimized for learning" especially teens to early 20s. That's a cool reality that gives them an edge for all kinds of learning for 10 years or so, but it also means they're "optimized for learning addiction" and all habits and addictions learned in these years are way harder to kick for life, than those learned in adulthood. It's a scary but great book, and written to be shared with teens. I'd also point out to your ex and son that it is still very illegal for kids to smoke, just as it is for them to drink and there are real risks around this too. Then I think you need to take a much tougher stance with your ex and DEMAND mediation and get your son to a therapist right now. Even if that means you go into debt and do it on your own dime. Explain to your son that this is so important to you, that you are willing to risk more poverty and struggle, to get him to rethink his actions, his friends, and learn how to better resist peer pressure. To that end, I know that there are other groups, such as church groups and probably the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley that have youth groups helping to teach kids how to push back against peer pressure. I'd call, start attending, and do everything in your power to get your son to at least give it a try,

    Not all high schools are this bad .... removing him from this campus feels like an option I'd consider. In fact, based on your letter and other similar ones I've seen, BHS is off my list even though we cannot truly afford private school. Good luck and don't give up.

    RE: Pot smoking at BHS ()

    Like you,I would unhappy about this,but my daughter told me something recently that might make you feel better.Two of her very good friends smoked pot a lot all through high school and college.They both went on to be successful doctors.I am not saying that is not a problem,but thought that might make you feel better.

    RE: Pot smoking at BHS ()

    I hear you.... I have a kid at BHS too and what she's told me the same about the prevalence of pot smoking at school. She hasn't felt the social pressure to do it (yet), but she's not super social and is very into academics and her sport. But she's mentioned things like teachers flat-out asking kids in class if they are high, joking about it with students, kids being high in class frequently. I am 100% supportive of marijuana being legal and I think it is completely acceptable as a recreational drug, just like alcohol. But not for developing brains, and certainly not on a regular basis. My daughter and I have had some good talks about the science of why it is a bad idea to use drugs and alcohol when your brain is still developing, which seemed to really resonate with her very scientific view of the world ;) I hope that sticks. I'll be interested to hear other responses to your question......

  • I have a parenting issue and I would love to get advice. First, I am recently a single parent, as my husband of 17 years decided to leave for the woman he's been cheating with. And I found out it's been going on a while. And he is now using his newfound freedom to be the fun parent. During this traumatic 6 weeks of discovering years of lies, I also find out my 16 year old MHS senior is getting stoned. And she has gotten her 15 year old sophomore sister stoned, too. Now, having grown up in the 70-80s, I am not going to be hypocritical and act like getting high is an unthinkable act. Most of us parents did it at some time. However, I didn't make a habit of it; I didn't buy it and I didn't drive around. So, I tried to lay ground rules--no pot at school ever; no driving high; no going to Grizzly Peak to get high because it's dangerous; no pot on school nights; home by midnight except when there is an agreed-upon exception, and maintaining grades and other healthy habits like regular exercise. We agreed upon these rules and consequences for breaking them--loss of car keys for one month, loss of phone privileges and 9pm curfew.  Well last night both girls were going to a friend's house and we agreed that, because it's a 3 day weekend, they were allowed to come home at 1am. My soon to be ex is staying somewhere in Lafayette. At midnight, I was suddenly gripped by suspicion that they were not where they said they would be because a Safeway charge appeared on my daughter's charge card. I looked on find my friends and saw they were on Grizzly Peak. I called them and got no answer. So I called their dad to get his help-hoping to drive up there with him, have him drive my daughter's car and I would drive them home. No answer. I got in my car, drove to Grizzly Peak and confronted them. They refused to get in my car. I called their dad and he asked me why I was spying on them and acting like a crazy person driving around and following them. He did not help and I finally had them drive slowly home. I enacted the punishment-no car, no phone for 1 month. My daughter claims she feels "betrayed" that I "violated her privacy". Their dad texted them while this was going on telling them both he hoped they were safe and if they needed to talk about anything to call him. No words of caution or reprimand. So I am attempting to parent my teens, while being undermined by their father. Does anyone have any advice on how to deal with this issue? And the Grizzly Peak Stoner problem is no laughing matter. I have seen cars go over the guardrail there many times. The kids seem to think "every one does it" and there are a lot of cars up there, but there's also limited capacity. So, in reality, those cars constitute a small portion of local high school kids and they aren't the ones I think my kids should be emulating. Advice anyone? I am struggling as a newly single mom trying to instill values!

    You are doing exactly right.  Hold your ground.  In the end, they will appreciate the boundaries.  If not, you have kept them alive until they are old enough to make their own choices.  Right now their teenage prefrontal cortex is not developed enough to make rational choices; they need adults to guide them.  Sounds like your ex is dealing with guilt for his poor choices and trying to buy favor with kids by being the lenient one.  I'm sorry that you have to be in the unenviable position of being bad cop, but you are doing the right thing.

    I'm having similar challenges. So I don't know if I have advice but maybe we care share ideas?

    In my case I'm the "more lenient" parent, but my 17-year-old son seems to fight with his dad (my ex) whereas he and I have a good relationship. I have similar boundaries to you. My ex is super critical and pretty much intolerant of any pot smoking whatsovever (he's from another country and didn't grow up with Bay Area culture, so that's part of it). So as a pair we're a little further over on the spectrum than the two of you -- I've got pretty much the same rules you have but I'm the lenient one.

    I've had a lot of long conversations with my son about minimizing his use, being very aware of the dangers of addiction. I think he's getting high more often than I'd like, he's gotten into trouble a few times recently (skipping school, trespassing) and I'm starting to worry that he may be dealing. He's a very responsible kid, gets mostly As, has a job, helps me take care of younger siblings -- always shows up. But I'm concerned about the crowd he hangs with.

    My son says he wants to go to college and we're doing the UC application right now. My hope is that if he goes off to a small college not too far away but in a different environment -- not around the friends he has here -- that this will help. He'll have lots of work to do and will make new friends. He's applying mostly in SoCal so I think this might work.

    I'm wondering if others have experience with the high school to college transition and what effect that has on a teen in this situation?

    Also I'm thinking of having him start therapy because I'm concerned his use of drugs connects to underlying emotional issues that he could use some help with (upset over divorce, etc.).

    Back up, I want to make sure I'm tracking here. Did you have your daughter "drive slowly" down from Grizzly Peak - while stoned? Next time, leave the car, and wake her up at the crack of dawn to go back with your to get the car the next day. If it gets towed, dear daughter has to pay.  What kind of message are you sending your kid by letting her drive under the influence? She could have been killed, and was her sister in the car? You could have lost both of them - or they could have caused a wreck and killed someone else, something she never would have gotten over. It's time to show her some tough love mom. This is a kid begging for some boundaries. You are totally right to be snooping. It's your job. Don't count on dad, he's off having his second adolescence.  Time to step up.  

  • Parenting a pot smoking teen

    (18 replies)

    My high school senior is smoking pot on a daily basis.  We've tried taking away privileges (no car use) and offering incentives (a new iPhone! being paid for passing a drug test!). He's not happy about not being able to drive, but would rather not drive than not smoke. He would love a new iPhone and would love the money, but again, it's not worth it to give up the pot. We've sent him to addiction therapists and met with the therapists ourselves. They tell us it is a bad idea to search his room and take away his pot and we should not invade his privacy this way (although one did say if he left it out in plain view it was OK to confiscate it).  I think the theory is this will just drive him to smoke at school or someplace more dangerous. It feels wrong to me when I know I could at least make it harder for him to smoke by taking the stuff away.  AND I DON'T WANT POT BEING SMOKED IN MY HOME. Any helpful advice? Anyone done anything that has gotten their teen to stop, or at least cut way down? Honestly, I would actually be OK with it at this point if his use was limited to parties or on the weekend with friends.  But he's smoking at home, alone, morning and night; says it relieves anxiety and helps him sleep. I'm sure it does, while also interfering with his brain development over the long-term.  Please help...

    RE: Parenting a pot smoking teen ()

    First off let me just convey my support, it's so tough to witness you kid making a mistake that may affect the rest of his life and not being able to do something about it...

    Hang in there!!

    Also, let me just say that my kids are significantly younger and I've never dealt with a situation like this. That said, your message moved me and I'd like to make some suggestions that you can take or leave... I think the first thing is for you to realize that this is a real problem and will not get resolved overnight - it will take time, it will take a lot of effort, support and encouragement and money to get off the pot train. So I think the first thing is for YOU to get some kind of support because the stronger you are - the more you can be there for him. Next, I think he needs therapy. The reason is because he feels like he can't function properly without pot. This stems from a deep insecurity or depression and you need to get to the root of that. Finally, I know some folks who have used pot extensively and say it messed with their brain. If you know somebody like that maybe they can talk to your kid and give them motivation to stop using. The way you describe it - it sounds like an addiction which is why your methods taking away privileges have not been working. However, you can still make rules like - smoking only in the yard and not in the house. This is your house too and you should feel comfortable in it.

    Take a deep breath, and be strong for your son!

    RE: Parenting a pot smoking teen ()

    I'm really sorry that you're facing this problem. Although everything we hear tells us that dope is not addictive, in my experience it is. I say that because I sincerely believe it's a form of self-medicating. This is something that addiction therapists don't want to face or deal with. Eventually heavy usage leads to paranoia and anxiety. Please consider taking your child to a MD Psychiatrist that is good with psychopharmaceuticals. (sp?) All three of my kids went from parochial school to Berkeley High and weren't prepared for the social pressures. All three smoked pot, but only one became dependent. It was 10 years before he got correctly diagnosed and treated with anti depressants. I have seen a close family member end up in jail because he went untreated and the drug usage escalated. What a difference a diagnosis and anti depressants made between the two. In the meantime, don't hassle your child or he will "take it elsewhere" which is no good, but DO insist on a full workup by the doc. I have gladly paid for many months of uncovered mental health care. It saved my child's future. God Bless you and keep communicating with other parents...we've ALL been there and we can see how hard you are trying.

    RE: Parenting a pot smoking teen ()

    I wish I had tips for you, but I don't, though I agree that getting draconian will just make your kid pull away from you. I just wanted to give you a glimmer of hope from another perspective. I was a massive pot head in high school. I smoke many times throughout the day, as did the majority of my friends, though I always kept up with my school work and had a job, etc.. When I got to college I immediately became friends with the other potheads in my dorm thinking we would get along because we had "so much" in common. I ended up finding them horribly dull and the friends I made after them didn't smoke pot  and with no real plans one way or the other, I just kind of stopped smoking because it was no longer around and I had to go out of my way to get it and use it. I should also mention that I have a highly addictive personality (I'm a former smoker and do love my wine, though not to a point where it's a problem).  So I guess my long winded point is, I hope you find something that works (nothing my parents did worked on me sadly) but don't despair even if you fail! Being a pot head is not a life sentence and the brain damage is probably not as bad as you think (I went to a 7 sisters college and am currently working on my third degree).

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Just discovered my 16yo son is smoking pot

July 2014

I succumbed to snooping a little on my 16 (nearly 17) year old son's email. He left it open on my computer. Discovered a couple of msgs. to / from new girlfriend about being so ''f***d up, smoking a bowl, etc etc. Enough for me to know that they are getting high, and are not being honest with me. My son gets good grades, plays varsity sports, and is a great kid. BUT has been really ''tired'' lately, not motivated to look for a summer job, etc.

My questions are do I tell him I read the emails, and that I know what is going on? And I am worried about the pot. His father, who is not involved in our lives, had a huge addiction problem with pot and alcohol when we were together and before. A little teenage experimentation is one thing but with the family history I am worried. How should I handle this?

On top of everything else, I have been in treatment for breast cancer since September, and on leave from my work, and it has been a tough year with a lot of change and anxiety for my family. (The prognosis is good though, and I am almost finished with radiation which is I hope, the last leg of my treatment) But it is a lot for anyone, especially a teen, to deal with. Welcome any suggestions on how to approach this situation.

worried mom

I don't have an answer, but I have the same question (so at least you are not alone!). My daughter is also a senior, has straight A's, is involved in school clubs and band...and I also read her Facebook messages (left open on my computer--same story), and found that she has recently started smoking pot with friends and seems to really like it!

I have talked to her a lot about addiction in our family. When I look at other teens, I always think, ''Well, at least she's not like THAT kid!''--teens who post pics of themselves of FB with drinks in their hands, or drunk, and so on. She NEVER does that! But I am also uncomfortable with her smoking weed, and how much she seems to like it and the fact that she is being ''accepted'' by these popular kids (the ones who smoke weed).

I, too, am scared. I am hoping you get some responses from people who have ''good kids'' with ''good grades'' who are smoking weed. What do we do? Keep talking? They are almost adults.... Same boat!

I don't know what you should do or say but at this point - the info is out there affecting your relationship and your state of mind - so you might as well find a way to have the discussion.

Most high schoolers are burned out these days - add cancer and well . . . Sounds like he has a good reason to be tired. Sounds like it's a good summer for everyone to exhale and take it E A S Y. I am a breast cancer survivor and the diagnosis and different phases of treatment affected each person in my family and our family as a whole in very deep and different ways.

With all respect for the addiction field and predisposition and so on - it doesn't sound like you need to jump to assuming there is a drug problem like his dad, but ''problem'' or no problem, it is definitely a good time to talk and have some support. Once treatment finishes you will be stepping out of constant crisis mode and it is often a time where emotions and exhaustion can surface for patients and their families.

Congratulations btw on being at the end of that long road. I am sure the journey has clarified your priorities on many things and now you can rebuild your life around that very powerful knowledge. Doing that will help your son recover from the shock and fear as well.

Wishing you a long life of health and happiness from here on. Isabelle

My heart goes out to you, especially with all you are dealing with. As a parent who has been down this road and not handled it well initially I wanted to pass some things on that I have learned...

  • Remember this is not an immediate crisis. He has likely been smoking for some time. It is more important to handle it properly than immediately.
  • The Partnership for a Drugfree America has some great resources on their site and a parent hotline to call and talk to a specialist.
  • You want to act of out love, care and concern and create an ongoing dialog (rather than the big "drug talk"). It is important to find out why they smoke and what they are like about it. Avoid lecturing.
  • Like most things, your teen is probably not going to tell you the truth. Expect denial.
  • A book recommended to me by Partnership for a Drugfree America is "Addiction Proof Your Child" by Stanton Peele. It has some really good insights and has helped me see the big picture.
  • Realize that unfortunately pot smoking is very widespread among teens. Some are able to get medical marijuana from a friend with an older sibling. Fake medical marijuana cards are common.
  • Alcohol use is common among teens as part of teen partying too unfortunately. And that puts teens in more immediate serious danger than the pot smoking.
  • Since pot and alcohol lower inhibitions, have the talk with your son about birth control if you have not yet done so. Remember to have faith, believe in yourself as a parent and to take care of yourself.

Been there too

Over-achieving 12th grader has started smoking pot

March 2014

Our straight A high school senior has started hanging out with some kids at school who get stoned. She has never been the type of kid who parties, goes out, or anything like that. Recently, I found rolling papers in her backpack (she said they belonged to a friend). Yesterday, I found an empty pot baggie in her room. I confronted her, told her I had found it, and asked her about it. Again, she said it belonged to a friend, but when I told her she needed to be honest, she said that a friend had given it to her (with pot in it), and she had smoked it with her friends.

I think this something new for her--within the past month. Here is a quick run down, just to add to the picture:

She is an over-achieving kid, great grades, in lots of school clubs, active in the community.... She has been accepted to several universities so far She is polite, respectful, kind to her sibling

She has never felt like she ''belongs.'' and has always struggled with having good friends, or any friends who she feels good about. She lies (a lot) about nothing--silly lies that bring attention to her or make her friends feel sorry for her or worry about her. She lies, I think, to make herself sound more interesting or intriguing to her friends, and perhaps to get attention. For example, she lied about having a boyfriend (when none existed), she lied about a sick relative (none existed), and so on.

My questions are:

  • How much of this is normal teen behavior?
  • What should my red-flags be?
  • Where do parents draw the line? She has an iphone--do I demand to check her texts?
  • She is almost 18; where is that line?
  • Do I allow her freedom, based on her excellent grades and for the most part, responsible behavior, and trust that she will work her way out of this, or do I reign her in, demand to know details about her day, seek counseling...?
  • As a kid who is getting ready to go to college, is it better to talk her through this behavior, or come down hard on her?
In other words; HELP!
Concerned Mama

I'm posting in response to the part of your post about teenage lying because this is very similar to my son who has recently started seeing a counselor about this problem. Like your daughter, it's not so much lying to stay out of trouble (although the pot lies are clearly in that category) but lying to seem important, or special, or interesting. One of the things the therapist told us is that you need to now only learn to 'not lie' (i.e., feel bad about lying, want to avoid that behavior, strive for honesty) but how to handle the bad feelings that can come with telling the truth. It's scary to tell the truth, it can make you feel insecure, it can stress you out, etc.

Anyway, this really resonated with me, and I can see it did with my son. The therapist also talked about the teen's need for space. I too struggle with how much checking I should do to catch the lies. I think these are great questions to raise in therapy and i urge your daughter to pursue it. Lying gets to be a habit and it reinforces feelings of insecurity, because the more you lie, the more you start to feel like no one will like you for who you really are. Because no one knows that person. Good luck - the truth is hard

I have raised two generations of high school teens. Of course, experimentation is normal. And high achieving students often feel at some point like they need to loosen up a little. A lot of kids think, ''oh, what's a little pot?'' And if they were OLDER, say over 21, I'd agree. However, studies have shown that teen brains are not finished developing (hence the lack of maturity). And pot affects that physiological and emotional development . Studies have correlated pot smoking and the development of schizophrenia in young males. While there has been no causal link, this connection is disturbing.

We've encouraged our teens to wait to try pot until their brains are finished growing, say 22-25 years old. And then of course there's the smoking (health) aspect, and the under the influence factor which can result in poor decision making, taking unnecessary risks and behaviors (unsafe sex, etc.)

Your daughter has proven trustworthy up to now. I would discuss this in a straight-forward way and express your concern that her new ''friends'' might not have the same good-thinking that has helped her succeed so far. And are these new choices in line with the direction of her goals up to now? Share that you have always been honest with her, and that this recent dishonesty on her part, hurts the trust that you have established with her. Tell her you are beginning to question that trust that you've placed in her. Ask her what she really wants. Try to respect her privacy, while continuing to monitor her for destructive behavior.

You've raised a responsible person. I doubt she's going to make a 360 turnabout now. All the best. It's hard not to grab on tighter, but that approach will only work against you, and justify in her mind, why you are not right in your reasoning.

Waited and glad I did

Generally I would say that if you have a straight-A student with all the great qualities you describe in your daughter you are very, very lucky and if she's just getting into pot you are unusual! (Prepare yourself for the possibility it's been going on longer than you think.)

IMHO, pot-smoking by itself is not something to get too worked up about. Your daughter has generally proven herself to be level-headed and responsible and should be treated like a semi-adult. Virtually all teens do it and even if they don't do it in high school they will surely do it in college. Better to experiment while there are good support resources around and learn how to deal with it so they are not overwhelmed once away from the constraints/supports of home. So I would not recommend ''coming down hard,'' demanding to see texts, etc. The last thing you want is to alienate her or push her away.

On the other hand, her other behavior (lying to get attention) in my view is worrisome and indicates self-esteem issues that she should talk with someone about. Of course you should talk to her, in a caring and supportive way. But I would also strongly encourage professional counseling. You could even tie the two issues together: ''I respect you, you're a good person, so I'm not going to come down hard about the pot. But many people who smoke pot, drink, etc. do so to escape dealing with something that is making them unhappy, anxious, or insecure. So in return for not punishing you on the pot, I expect you to spend some time in counseling and really explore the motivations behind this and other behaviors.'' Been there (and survived it!)

I'm also a mom of a senior -- at this stage we're transitioning to an advisor role (as a friend with college-aged children explained to me.) So, you really need to sit down with her and talk about this -- it sounds like she has more marijuana than just random experimenting, so it may take a while to figure out what is going on. Presumably she's pretty ambitious, so you probably want to be prepared with facts about achievement and smoking dope in college students. Punishment only drives your child away which is the last thing you want to do during this transition. anon

I too have a teenage who has taken to socialize with his peers by smoking cannabis, and for us it was hard to come to terms with his activities and our inability to ''check him'' as he is nearly an adult and we believe strongly that he needs to make his own choices (and live with the consequences)

I also did not feel like I could honestly throw the book at him for an activity that 1) I used to engage in at his age 2) is legal in 2 states and decriminalized in our region 3)is proven to be less dangerous than alcohol

That said, I also worried that he would be stupid like most 17 year olds are and take the drug to school where the consequences would be exponentially more damaging to his reputation and future (criminal record, loss of financial aid, potential jail time)

Our solution (I understand it may be controversial) was to have a serious conversation and hash out all that we knew about cannabis use and criminal liability, we wanted to establish his source (who sold it to him) and what kind of behavior the group engaged in while under the influence.

Once we satisfied our concerns we made a deal:

  • No pot during the school day (ever)
  • No pot without a medical recommendation (eliminate the police issues)
  • No selling pot to anyone ever ever !!!
  • No smoking indoors
  • No mixing pot with any other substance
  • Check in to talk about consumption and any kind of dangerous situation (weekly)

We learned some hard truths about life during this difficult time, 1) by the time kids are 17 you are better off working with them than being a warden 2) pot is easy to get and is potent 3) most of the time our kid and his friends got high and played video games for hours 4)our kid is not as stupid as we thought.

Our solution may not be for everyone, but it works for my family.

If CA could just get it legalized and taxed (using the tax money for education) this issue would be just one of manners rather than crime.

-- Signed -- -- 420 parenting angst--

Since she is almost 18, I think that it would be unwise to take any drastic actions. She is basically an adult and like it or not, she will do whatever she wants. I would be very honest with her and have a non-judgemental conversation where you express your concerns, but mostly see if there is anything that she might want to talk to you about. Be honest about why smoking pot might be a bad idea - does she feel like these people will only be friends with her if she does? Before you do this, think very carefully about the negatives of smoking pot - it is still somewhat illegal and often draws seedy people into one's life and doing drugs to make friends is a dangerous path. Reassure her that when she gets to college, things will be much different and she will almost certainly find more people who will accept her for who she is (this is so, so true). No matter what - do not threaten, cajole, punish, bully, etc. If you don't want drugs in the house (very fair) make it absolutely clear that you disagree with her choice and that if she brings it into the house it will be confiscated. Overall, be very loving and firm. Treat her like the adult that you want her to be. Lisa

I would be far more concerned about the lying than the pot. I don't believe that her telling lies about having a boyfriend or having a relative die is at all 'typical teen behavior' (lying about the pot is though...) Have you confronted her about the lies? I think therapy-before she goes to college-would be very helpful. She is too old to be lying about these things and it is clear she needs attention. I would do it now so she can get a handle on it before she goes away and possibly gets overwhelmed with college life and this behavior gets worse.

It is so hard to feel like you don't have a core group of friends-and i am sure many of us felt that way in high school-I imagine if she goes to a bigger college she will find her tribe.

good luck. anon

Hi Mom of 12th grader,

I bet you'll get a lot of different opinions on this one. My now 18 yo son has been smoking pot for 2 years. I smelled it in the bathroom and confronted him. He was honest and we had a great talk about it. I'm not against him smoking. It actually helps his anxiety. We talked about where he could and couldn't smoke, where he gets it, the legal issues, what is expected of him in school, behavior, etc.

My son has good grades. Neither he nor his friends drink. I know his friends. They hang out here at our house. They're all good kids. I know some of their parents.

At first I said no smoking in the house, but then I decided that our house was a safe place to least they weren't out somewhere in public. So, they are allowed to smoke in our back yard and in my son's room. He has agreed that he would not smoke in his car, and he's a pretty conscientious far I trust him.

If your daughter is going away to college, there is not much you can do about her behavior when she leaves. Are you against her smoking? It sounds like you just aren't sure what direction to take since this is new. You might try having a talk with her about what your expectations are while she's still home. Unfortunately we have little control over what they do when they're out....and they're good at sneaking, as you know. Do you know your daughter's friends? Do you like them? Do you know their parents? If your daughter lies to you, you'll have to find a way to either check up on her or reach an understanding about boundaries....don't get caught checking her texts!! If it's OK w/ you if she smokes ,set boundaries....where is OK, where is not OK. Let her know what happens if she gets caught by the wrong person. I think if they want to smoke, they will smoke whether we, the parents are OK with it or not.

I was a pot smoker as a teen and young adult. My parents knew, though we did not discuss it as I did with my son. I do not smoke now, nor do I have any interest. I do not think pot should be illegal (yay medical marijuana cards). I believe that alcohol is far more dangerous then marijuana. I hope you find this helpful.

Good luck. anon mom

How to stop 17yo from smoking pot in the house

Jan 2014

Last year when we suspected our son, then 16 was using pot we searched his room and found a variety of items used for smoking pot as well as a container of it in his school backpack.

Now since he knows we know about his use he makes much less of an effort to conceal it, and we have even caught him smoking in our house on occasion. We have opened suspicious (because of the shipper address) packages that have come in the mail to him to find bongs and related pot equipment. We have told him repeatedly that we have a zero tolerance for any illegal drugs or equipment or their use in our home. Still he gets extremely angry if we take and dispose of the contraband. The other month he took several bottles of wine we had stored as retribution for us "stealing" the pot we found in this room.

Have talked to his friend's parents and they all know their son's smoke, don't want them to smoke but know their sons do. Apparently it is very prevalent at his high school in general. He wrote an essay for a school assignment about why pot should be legalized and got major kudos from his teacher on it. And unfortunately likely one day pot will be legal in California but never for 17 year olds. We know we can't stop him but we can prohibit it in our house. We do not think that the wilderness program/therapeutic boarding school route is the best approach and neither does his therapist. So we are monitoring his usage and hoping it is a phase that he outgrows.

How have other parents handled this issue? If you know your child is smoking do you occasionally search and remove the items? Want a drug free home

I could have written your message, almost word for word. Pot is the biggest headache in our family life right now, for all the reasons you describe: teachers at school sometimes seem to endorse it, it is cheap (free if your folks have a prescription, hey!) and readily available, lots and lots of kids do it (including the ''good'' ones), it is very low on the totem pole of things law enforcement cares about, and it is basically rotting my kid's mind and turning him into an apathetic stoner. AKA breaking my heart.

I have destroyed bongs, outlawed certain kids who smoked pot on our veranda with my son, I've thrown grass and fixings away, taken away allowance, cut off privileges, you name it, all to no avail. I don't believe in ''wilderness'' or other intervention programs either, which may work if the kid is motivated, but... My brother sent his kid off to one, spending tens of thousands of dollars he didn't have (he sold his truck and put an extra mortgage on his house). Weeks after his return, my nephew was back on the dope and tuned out of life once more.

I am sorry to be so negative, but I wish I had an answer for you, because then I would have one for me. What I can do is empathize, and if you want to get in touch with me, you can ask the moderator to give you my e-mail. Maybe exchanging info and strategies and just talking could be helpful.

another parent dismayed by pot tolerance

In answer to the parents who are searching and finding pot paraphernalia: I'd respectfully encourage you to get more help; marijuana can be an addictive substance for some individuals, your son is showing repeated defiance of your house rule and when you say you have zero tolerance, and again, this is meant with respect and compassion because we have been in your same spot - I hear you, you don't want him doing this and you are doing what you know how to do, at this point, to help him curtail his use.

I also hear repeated violations and not a lot about consequences; I hear him ''punishing you back for stealing his pot - he takes your wine'' , he's writing essays in class about marijuana legalization and its harmlessness ( I refer to this as worshipping at the alter of Weed when they write about it, wear clothing advertising it, get oppositional and will give up most anything to continue to use and defend their right to use - ''it's legal after all!)

When a kid begins to fight so hard, and give up his previous activities, friends, harmony is disrupted in the household .... you have to really begin to question: is this a phase we can afford to just wait and see if he grows out of it, or should be take more serious action?

There are a lot of good books and I suspect there are counselors in your area that can help you evaluate if his drug use has hallmark warning signs. You know, as counterintuitive and invasive as parents tend to find drug testing, breathalizers and searching - these are the tools that will help you discern if you are getting anywhere with him.

Once you begin testing, stick to it, do it several times a week, pull out the breathalizer WHENEVER you are suspicious and keep at it for at least 6 months to a year. Tie the use of the car, his ability to leave the house to consistently negative urine drug tests. Take him to a certified drug testing lab and have the urine tests witnessed - don't turn your home life into the battle zone for obtaining urine samples (and the home tests are not! oriously undependable.) AND LOCK UP ALL YOUR MEDS, anything that one could get any type of ''buzz'' from: cough syrups, ADHD meds, sleeping aids, left over narcotics ... look through all your old medicines and discards or lock up AND encourage all the other parents to do the same.

If you are a reader: What's Wrong With My Kid ? When Drugs or Alcohol Might Be a Problem and What to DO about it. By George E. Leary, Jr. The Informed Parent Series: MARIJUANA What's a Parent to Believe? by Timmen L Cermak, M.D.

If you do decide your son needs some intervention beyond what you can supply at home, wilderness is not the only option. I'd recommend Hazelden in Minnesota, Grey Wolf in Port Townsend, Wa and you can find a good adolescent Educational Consultant. One I highly recommend it Anne Lewis out of Santa Barbara. Good luck, glad you reached out. Hope this helps and was not too heavy handed for what you are ready to hear.

Personally I would be searching his room and belongings on a regular basis if my kid was so blatantly not following the rule about not smoking at home. I was surprised to read that he retaliated by taking the parents' wine. That is shockingly disrespectful and I hope there were consequences.

In terms of how to enforce the rules, I would ask you: where does the money come from to pay for the pot and the paraphernalia he's ordering online? Does he have access to a credit card for online ordering? I am guessing it comes from you, and I would curtail that right away.

Been through this twice

Pot smoking 17yo 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 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

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 different kid (better 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 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 has a Parent Hotline - 1-855-DRUGFREE. Please feel free to contact me at my website at 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 [at] Or contact Ann McDonald-Cacho Ann [at] 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

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.

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

15yo 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): 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) :

Learn something new every day

Hot off the presses: Check out this link and share with your teen.

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.''


18-yr-old son on pot won't move forward

Oct 2010

Our son, just turned 18, did not finish his senior year in high school, claims to want to find work, get driver's license, share an apartment, ultimately take necessary classes to get into college. However, he has a serious pot addiction, as well as an on-line gaming addiction. We provide home and food, began by giving him weekly allowance. We don't give him cash any more, in an effort to induce him to earn his own. He has a friend, 19, in the same boat, they smoke weed constantly, and we are afraid they will resort to dealing, if they haven't already. He claims to be looking for work, but we see no evidence of this and can no longer believe what he tells us. Most of the time he is in his disheveled room, sleeping, or on his computer. Since he is 18, he cannot be forced into re-hab, therapy, or anything else. Any suggestions very welcome.

I would stop subsidizing his behavhior.

He is an adult now, there is no reason why you have to provide him with a computer, cell phone, or anything else. The first step would be to cut those off if he doesn't shape up.

If he is living in your house he has to abide by your rules. That should mean no drugs, finishing his schoolwork, job search every day, etc.

If he can't abide by those rules, then there is only one choice; you have to set him free. Parent of Teens

1. Act as though you have the strength to kick him out (give fair warning).

2. Act as though you are giving him the opportunity to have a meaningful life (kick him out).

3. Act as though you have a life (exercise, have lunch with friends, work hard, make love, watch comedies on TV, go to museums, redecorate, read novels and junk magazines, go shopping, etc.)

4. Wait for progress (you will grow stronger and so will he!). From one who knows the ropes

That was sage advice posted last week. I had to do just that with my 19 year old, kick him out. He is now living in Tahoe and working. His boss and coworkers say he is a motivated worker. I still think he smokes too much weed, but he is supporting himself now and learning how to be a young man, so I really can't say much about it. Hopefully they get better as they grow up. He is a great person and I have my fingers crossed.

Anxious, pot smoking 18 year old needs direction

Sept 2009

My 18 year old son just graduated from high school (grades in the C and B range) and is really struggling. He has agreed he will probably go to community college in January but for now he is drifting-- anxious, (He has social anxiety disorder-- tried cognitive therapy briefly but wasn't fully involved), possibly depressed, and using too much pot. He spends his days playing video games, watching television, reading, and playing basketball. My husband committed suicide when he was younger and he has had lots of therapy but stopped about a year ago. He's tried two antidepressants but quit without-- I think-- really giving them a chance to work. He feels strongly that medical marijuana (He has a license.) is the best way to deal with his anxiety. I disagree, but can't force medication. I've been a loving mother but made big mistakes by doing too much for him and not setting limits. He has little ability to cope with frustrations. He hoped to find a job and applied to only four jobs and then got discouraged. When I tell him about the tough job market that makes him more anxious and he either blames me for not helping him or says he's a failure. He's also quite passive. We get along fine when I back off and focus on my job, my friends,or his older sister who really excels.(I'm careful to not compare them.) And he does have things going for him-- he's smart, has a great sense of humor, is a good basketball player, plays music, hangs out with friends--sometimes. But I need to do something! He does not want to be back in therapy but has agreed to career or life counseling. Can anyone recommend someone he might meet with who can offer some combination of therapy/life/career planning? He has a dream of playing major league basketball which I know is unrealistic, but maybe there are rec teams out there he could play on. Also, do you have ideas about the limits/consequences I should be setting? He is not interested in volunteer work and I've seen him have anxiety attacks in the past, so I'm reluctant to force a particular thing on him. But clearly I need help. Thank you for any suggestions you can offer. Worried mom

Look, first of all, B's and C's are not bad grades, so handling basic community college work from an academic perspective is probably not a problem. It's his confidence that's the problem.

Perhaps he should try some ''hands-on'' courses at community college, like shop (automotive, metal, wood, electronics), art (drawing, painting), even music (learning guitar or MIDI). Community colleges also offer great selections of PE courses ranging from weight room to baseball to martial arts.

Point out that there are many degrees possible - including phys ed. If he loves baseball, that's a start. Get him into working out with the great people who run the PE department. Let him speak to a community college guidance councilor ASAP and start developing a curriculum he *wants* to do with people his own age.

As to the pot, perhaps as he gains confidence and control over his body, this issue will resolve itself because he will not feel he needs it as much. Good luck Lynne

I strongly recommend the One Stop Job center at Rubicon. 1918 Bonita Ave., one block north of University and one block east of MLK. I have been an underemployed adult and I wish I had started with them over a year ago. They offer a full suite of career assistance. He first will need to get an East Bay Works card at the EDD office on Hegenberger in Oakland. Rubicon will put him through an orientation, and workshops on job search, resume writing and interviewing. There is a job club every Thursday from 930a-11a were we try to help each other on getting jobs. I have seen young people there trying to get jobs and yes, most of them do not have a clue as to what it takes to get a job these days. The most useful things for him will probably be that it takes work and persistance to get a job and that there are people out there much worse off than he is. I have met perfectly nice competent people there who are living in homeless shelters, being evicted from their housing, their job has gone offshore, etc. Another suggestion, while he is job searching, see if he can volunteer at an afterschool program helping kids with basketball. It would be a structured self esteem builder and good for the community. kl

It strikes me that you have been a real trooper in this situation, and you don't give yourself enough credit; in fact, you are very willing to accept blame for what is happening with your son (you were too permissive, too supportive, enabling, whatever). Maybe you could have been tougher -- but your husband committed suicide! When are YOU going to get a break, help, and assistance? I think your son is old enough for you to have a heart-to-heart with him in which you explain that you have carried the burden of supporting him and his siblings and that it is your most ardent wish that he be able to take care of himself in this world; not that you are not going to continue to love him and give him support, but every human being needs to do his or her utmost to learn to live independently and then, in turn, take care of others -- children, elders. At one point you will grow older, and you may need his help! Perhaps if you appeal to his sense of empathy and strength (rather than worry about his weakness), he will feel called upon to be his better self. You can offer a career/guidance counselor chosen for him, someone who will help him define REALISTIC goals (not fantasies -- playing pro ball is a fantasy and should be labeled as such) and help him figure out how to map out the path to attain them. School counselors may be too overburdened in your district to do this; probably finding an independent, private counselor would work best, or an adult he admires and trusts who has knowledge and good sense.

I should add as a personal note that I was married for a long time to a man who lived in a fantasy world (he was a ''great writer'' who never published anything rather than a pro ball-player), and I was a total enabler in that relationship. It is very destructive for all involved. You are more awake now than I was -- you should give yourself a lot of credit for what you have managed to do. earth-bound

I don't really have any advice, but I am going through something similar with my 18 yr old son, and if you want to talk, ask the moderator for my email. hang in there

It's hard -- but he's still young and you can start pushing him toward a better life. In order to stop the drifting I pay my son $300 per month if he keeps a 3.0 average at the community college. Pot kills motivation so your son really should stop smoking pot. Small improvements

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

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 ]