How do teens get THC edibles?

Here's one to chew over: My 15 year old has promised not to smoke anything (weed, tobacco or vape) during COVID--no risking lung damage, please. But in return, they have asked if I would provide them with THC edibles. Half of me thinks I'm nuts to even consider it. I'd never buy alcohol for a teen, nor knowingly let them drink mine (other than a sip at dinner), so why am I considering giving them edibles? And yet, another half of me thinks this is not an unreasonable request, given these times of anxiety, isolation, deprivation, etc., and that they are making a sacrifice for the family's overall health, and that if they were at school they and their friends would certainly be passing weed around in many forms. The third half of me is worried about potential damage to a growing teenage brain, but it's hard to hold on to that fear when I know what my teen years were like, and I survived. No need to pass judgment--I'm doing plenty of that already--I need help figuring out what to actually do. 

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RE: How do teens get THC edibles? ()

Do some research into the effect of drugs on the teenage brain. It can hurt development. I'm not anti drug in general, and god knows I smoked plenty of weed in high school and turned out okay, but studies are showing it is better for kids to wait. I read about it in the book The Teenage Brain, by neuroscientist Frances E. Jensen. It is a GREAT book. She's a single mom, so she really understands what parents are going through and helps the reader understand why teens do what they do. Anyway, I would use science to tell you kid why he shouldn't do edibles.

RE: How do teens get THC edibles? ()

It sounds like you have open communication with your child. That will be very helpful as you navigate these waters. I encourage you to talk with your teen about what it is they hope to get out of using edibles. If it is relaxation or reduction of anxiety, brainstorm other approaches they might try, including CBD (better if they research and come up with the alternatives). THC is illegal to those under 21 for recreational use and under 18 for medical use for a reason. Consider the message you might convey if you decide this law does not apply to your child. Much more research is needed, as we are just beginning to understand the effects of THC on the teenage brain, particularly the high potency and unbalanced cannabinoid formulations so prevalent in the market. SAM (https://learnaboutsam.org) is a site that shares well-researched information about cannabis.

My child began experimenting with THC edibles and mints to calm anxiety and stress and to help with sleep around the age of your child. I do not share this with the intent to scare you, but rather as a reality check. My child is now 20 and deeply dependent on high potency cannabis products. When the cannabis became no longer effective, they added much harder drugs to their repertoire. Fortunately, they were able to stop using the harder drugs without formal treatment when they realized they were at risk of unintentionally killing themselves. But they cannot kick the cannabis dependency (and are not willing to attend a treatment program of any model as they are terrified of living without cannabis). Not all young people who try THC will become dependent, but it is a real risk. The longer you can encourage them to wait, the better for their developing brains. I strongly encourage you to avoid enabling use in general, and particularly underage use. A recent well-researched book that covers the effects of THC on the brain in reasonable depth is "Never Enough" by Judith Grisel. Consider reading the chapters on cannabis before making your decision on how to proceed with your child. Trust your gut—you are of two minds on this for good reason.

RE: How do teens get THC edibles? ()

Is your kid seeing friends?  Outside, with masks on?  If so, I think they can manage scoring weed/edibles/etc without your help if they are resourceful enough.  No judgment here, but I think this is something your kid can figure out on their own, pandemic or no pandemic.  

RE: How do teens get THC edibles? ()

You are not alone! This has become a common challenge. My approach is to bring curiosity: what does THC do for your child? Is it for fun ("recreation") or does the THC help them sleep, cope with stress, treat their depression? It's not going to be black and white but if it's more the latter, then other treatments for those issues are more effective. Another thing to look out for is signs of withdrawal -- folks who use every day can often have withdrawal and cravings (irritability, headaches, sleeping less or more) that can last for up to 2 weeks. If there are signs of withdrawal, then the relationship to THC is more complicated. Happy to talk if you want. -- Ava

RE: How do teens get THC edibles? ()

Pot today is not the pot of our youth. There is a lot of data showing a vulnerability to psychosis can be expressed with pot use (and I have personal knowledge of 2 friend’s kids who had psychotic experiences as teens with pot use- one developed a full blown mental illness- the other never used pot again).

Mine may not be the popular view but I wonder Why do you assume your child would be smoking pot if not for the pandemic? Why accept that as a reality. Personally, I think hanging on to disapproval about our kids behavior even if they disobey is better for them than their feeling like we don’t care or approve of their pot/alcohol use. Especially as a freshman or sophomore. My now 17 yr old has begun drinking beer during Covid with friends at their parents home with the parents at home. He told me about it as a possibility before it started and had already arranged for the other parents to drive so they wouldn’t be in position to drink/drive. After 4 months of very responsible behavior (no drunk driving, no coming home drunk, not missed class or baseball practice/games, I’ve softened and bought beer for him and his friends (all seniors) this weekend to drink at our house while we were at home. 

I feel like our disapproval- explicitly telling him (& our daughter when she was in high school) that we don’t want them to drink or smoke pot at all while they’re young and brains are still developing with this caveat- if I hear about your drinking or smoking pot from other people there will be severe consequences. If you tell me about it yourself, we’; have a conversation and determine the what to do about it- really helped postpone his (and her) substance use. And built a kind of trust between us and their sense that we’re in this together.

my 2 cents.

RE: How do teens get THC edibles? ()

I'm not judging, just sharing what I've gone through with my son. Long story short, I wish I was stricter and didn't let him do weed, but that may not have worked either and he'd be a an addicted wreck of a person he is now. Kids don't "need" to use marijuana to feel good. And while lots of them use that and many other things (ketamine is one of the latest), many don't. My nephew is a high school sophomore, and when my now 20 year old son explained to him that he ended up doing pot because kids at his public school showed up high to class and it was widely used, the nephew said it was the same at his current private school and he just says "no" when offered drugs. Sounds like your relationship with your child is pretty similar to mine. But, mine is now 20. I wish weed and other drugs never existed. At this point, I still have hope my son will have a decent kind of future, but he may not in big part thanks to weed. You must have heard many times that today's weed is not the weed of your youth: it's way stronger and gets mixed with other substances which can be pretty bad even when they are as "benign" as tobacco (when they smoke blunts). My son used the same logic with me when he persuaded me to buy him weed. There was no COVID, but he was depressed and the medication he was prescribed helped but had bad side effects that he claimed were helped greatly by weed. I asked him what if he gets addicted, and he reassured me, "Mom, you will help me and we'll get through this together!" So I agreed and kept buying him weed for at least a year. He came out of depression, stopped taking the antidepressant, but kept taking weed despite that the agreement was that he'd stop that too. His use got out of hand and he agreed to go through the chemical dependency program at Kaiser in his senior year of high school, which is the only reason why he was able to graduate. He started using again that summer and swore he'd stop before going to college, which he did, but then started using again once in college. He had run ins with the law because of it as cops stopped him for other reasons (temp license plate) and smelled pot in his car (he was not high but they still held him for many hours while they strip searched and tested him). He almost got kicked out of college when they discovered weed in his room, but they couldn't prove it was his, so he was "only" put on deferred suspension. That scared him and he stopped again and had a decent quarter, but then went right back to it this past winter break and we could barely stand having him home. Weed turns him into a horrible person: aggressive, non-sensical, uncaring, messy and downright stupid. He is now trying to quit again, but it's way harder since he's used it for so long and it's so strong, so now I'm buying him low THC dose with mostly CBD. Really, he should just quit, but I suspect he'll go right back to it. 

My son asked me for CBD only vape or edibles, so maybe CBD edibles would work for your kids. Honestly though, they are playing you. They may be lucky and be able to do weed and not get addicted like my son and plenty others, but there are so many other things to lift their spirits and make them look cool in the eyes of their friends if that's what they want. Exercise, cooking, meditation, hobbies. BTW, my son lost interest in all of that once he started weed.

RE: How do teens get THC edibles? ()

Great that your kid has agreed not to damage their lungs with smoking or vaping. And get that this is a really difficult situation. But there are so many reasons that your email sends off alarm bells for me. And I mean no shade, as I think I understand where you're coming from. But I'd counsel you to take a step back and think about the long game.  If you don't want them using substances (which they're not legally allowed to do at 15), don't do it. You're first of all sending the message that cannabis is an acceptable way to use to deal with the difficulty of covid isolation (not diminishing the difficulty in any way.)  And that you're willing to break the law to do it. Plus, there's lots of research out there on cannabis and teenage brains (it's not good).Pot has nothing to do with the stuff we smoked when we were teens - it's up to 10x stronger. It's a slippery slope. And you still have a lot of teenage years to go. As a parent who's teenage kid spent 2 years in treatment I urge you to mitigate your child's distress in healthier ways. Yes, they often find a way to do the drugs anyway. But if you enable them, you're sending a message. And there's no closing that door. 

RE: How do teens get THC edibles? ()

I am horrified by this question, from a reasonable sounding parent. I have a 15 year old who would never ask such a thing and is not (at the moment) inclined to drugs or alcohol. But I well remember my own teen years ... I will be interested to see responses!  I will add that my best friend in this area is an ER doc, and she sees TONS of kids in crisis who ingested too many edibles - there is just no way for them to understand dosage. Louann Brizendine has plenty to say about teen brains ...

RE: How do teens get THC edibles? ()

Because of the still developing brain, I would not provide my child with any form of THC.

That said, with edibles it is a lot easier to overdose than with other forms of THC. I volunteer as medical staff at events and pretty much all people with too much THC in their system we see had edibles. Now a THC overdose by itself is not deadly like an opioid or ecstasy overdose. However, it will make you vomit and lethargic, a combination that can be deadly unless supervised by a sober person.

RE: How do teens get THC edibles? ()

Have you done any research on giving THC edibles to teens cause I have and its a very bad even horrible idea.  You can actually damage your kids brain along with a whole host of other issues and from a parent who has a kid that suffers from anxiety, THC is NOT the answer.   Are you also aware that you are giving permission for a substance that is illegal to give a teen?  Not judging you, but you need to rethink this asap.  Your teen is attempting to break whatever rules you have about drugs.  I have a pretty wild past and we did not allow drugs in our house.  Our kid did try pot twice and did not like the side effects.  I also threaten to put her butt in rehab so fast given the vast amount of addicts both sides of the family has.  Keep your kids away from drugs and stop the sips of alcohol, its giving permission for them to drink.   

RE: How do teens get THC edibles? ()

I have my own 20 year old who, at age 17, smoked way too much in my opinion to dispel depression (had lots of therapy, but still..)--but she never smoked at our house as far as we knew. Agree with other parents, no judgment at all. We decided to go with prevailing laws just to have a clear boundary. We figured that at age 18, our daughter could pursue getting a medical marijuana card on her own. BTW, she is doing very well now--still has her occasional ups and downs--but is one of the healthiest people I know. She knows she's fully in charge of her own well-being.

I can completely understand why the suggestion your teen has made makes sense on some levels. Yet your gut is giving you mixed messages, and I think there's a reason for that. You are being pulled into the world that has always been the purview of the young: indulging in behaviors that are risky. The ante has been upped for parents with strong pot and so much more available. But in my view, there is something to be said for staying in your own lane on this one--most importantly for YOUR PEACE OF MIND. If your child chooses to use marijuana, they will then be responsible for the impacts of this decision. You will never end up on the phone with another parent accusing you of being responsible because your child shared the edibles tor explaining to an ER staff what your teen ingested (feeling guilty inside). 

My heart goes out to you and all of us parents raising young teens and adults in this era. I'm not suggesting that we turn our backs on our teenagers or stop watching the impacts of their choices on their lives. But my hunch is that the step you would be taking if you participate in providing your teen with gummies will muddy your relationship and your parenting compass; and, ultimately, will not leave you feeling centered. No judgment there! My own compass has to be pulled out everyday--and sometimes I think, "This is where you're leading me?!?" Our kids will make choices that scare us at times, and really the one thing we have to offer them is our own ability to keep our feet on the ground as the world roils around them, to give them the message that we're here and not going away, that we love them, always. If a bit of guilt steps in--i.e. I shouldn't have given you gummies OR I shouldn't have given you gummies, it can wreak havoc with the fragile parenting ecosystem you've probably been working hard to establish. 

How does this sound as a statement wherein you decide to stay in your own lane and let your teenager experience making their own independent choices on this issue: "I'm so glad that we were able to have this open and honest discussion about the impacts of smoking pot on your lungs during COVID. I really thought your suggestion that I provide you with edibles was a creative one, and it showed me that you were willing to take my preferences into account. That means a lot to me. After thinking it over, I have realized that despite the fact that I will worry about your health if you continue to smoke, it really IS your choice--and I would not be at peace providing you with something that isn't legal at your age and whose affects on your brain may be unhealthy. My hope for you is that you'll make smart choices for yourself--and I'm here, always, to talk if you need to--even if you made a choice that you don't think I'd approve of." If this suggestion doesn't resonate, someone else's suggestion hopefully will. Wish you all the best...  - Sarah

RE: How do teens get THC edibles? ()

I'm not pro-pot or against it, but here are the facts.  There is NO credible research which shows pot causes any development or metal issues or not.  We just don’t know.   Yes, there are lots of anecdotal stories saying it causes cancer, curse cancer, causes brain damage, makes people psychotic, causes Alzheimer's and sexual deviance.  But they pot is used by Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and all the programmers who worked on the Atari Game system said they were high while programming.  They thank pot for the creative geniuses behind many of the Atari games.  Giving your kid pot just might release a hidden genius.

Look at the facts.  Over the past 60 years almost every kid in America has been exposed to pot starting around middle school.  Authorities without any research told us pot was the gateway drug leading to heroin addiction, violence, and sexual deviance.  We now know those were all lies.  I think you will find most of the troops in Vietnam used pot as have most of the people you interact with every day.  This includes doctors, teachers, politicians, grocery store clerk, etc.  If pot causes all of the health issues problems people say don’t you think about half of the people in our country would have pot related heath issues?  I’m not seeing it.

While I can't stand the smell of pot, I would get the edibles for your kid.  Let them try it.    You know they are going to try it.  Give it something you know is pure and not laced with crap.  Pot is if addictive is less so than cigarettes or alcohol.  Be supportive and provide it.  Not sure if you use it, but there are parents who get high with their kids.

Best of luck

RE: How do teens get THC edibles? ()

You have received good advice- I am giving you my feedback to add to that.

Marijuana is considered a gateway drug.  No, it's not heroin, or meth, or opiates.  Teen use of any drug especially THC where the risks have been minimalized because it is legal in CA, "everyone" smokes it, etc. can lead to more dangerous substances.  I speak from experience - my now 18 year old started using marijuana without my knowledge at a young age and by age 14 I had him transported to a teen treatment facility for drug abuse.  Which lead to a therapeutic boarding school, wilderness, back to the school and two rehab centers.  None of which have kept him sober.  What I thought was a marijuana issue only turned out to be opiates along with other hardcore substances.  The last 4 years have been dealing with the impact of his addiction on him and our family.  He is addicted to percs pressed with fentanyl and on the way to another treatment option this week.  It is our last ditch effort and it is only an option because he realizes his life is not manageable.  If he did not accept this reality, there is nothing we would be able to offer - addicts will not do anything different unless they are ready to and for most that is hitting rock bottom.  It is heartbreaking to see my son at the point he is at now.

This is a long road I would not wish on anyone.  I have messaged time and again to his 16 year old brother to NOT use marijuana, alcohol, etc.  This is my consistent stance- use of drugs / alcohol in our home will not be tolerated or enabled.  He has seen what it's done to his brother which is a hard lesson learned.  

As others have mentioned, the effect of THC on a developing brain is impactful and will impede the brains development - that is a fact.  Do not enable or support your teens use of any illegal substance.  And THC is illegal under the age of 21 (unless a medical use card is issued).  Your teenager(s) are gaslighting you- do not fall into that trap.  No is a complete sentence and that is what you need to tell them and stand behind when it comes to any under age substance use.  You cannot control what your teens do outside your home, but you can be consistent with your messaging and boundaries of what is acceptable (or not) where you all live.

RE: How do teens get THC edibles? ()

Why would you never buy alcohol for a teen? I got this info from the web: 

California alcohol laws let those of any age below 21 have alcohol in private locations. Except in vehicles. They may drink if a parent, guardian, spouse or other responsible relative age 21 or older is present. ... It is illegal for those under 21 to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.01%.

It may even be a good idea for a parent to provide alcohol. Teenagers get to know their limit in a safe environment. It makes it less cool to drink if they can drink with their parents. 

Marijuana is a different drug, of course. But you may want to think over what your teenager will do if you refuse to supply edibles. Will they have weed on their own and smoke it? Seems likely. 

I suggest that you talk about the pros and cons with your teenager. Discuss frequency. It is different think to provide edibles for every day use as opposed to once a month. 

It is a complicated issue and I congratulate you for approaching it with an open mind. 

RE: How do teens get THC edibles? ()

I’m an old lady, and was a teenager in the late 60’s and early 70’s, when pot was becoming mainstream. My mom, who was mentally ill, managed to terrify me that drugs could make me mentally ill. As a result, even though I hung out with the hippie crowd in and out of school, I didn’t smoke pot until I was 19.

When I started smoking in college, I quickly became a daily user – not heavy, but every day. Stopped in grad school, started up again with CA legalization. Quickly back to daily use, not heavy, but enough to reduce my functioning. I love being high, and it really limits my ability to manage life. A family emergency led me to dump my stash in the compost heap (lucky worms!), and every day I miss it. I think you can pretty much define addiction as craving something that messes up your life, and by that definition I’m an addict.

Please understand that THC is a depressant. In my case, I was happy when high, and woke up each morning in a state of misery and dread. Not to say that I’m cheerful now, but I’m dealing with life. If your kid is unhappy or anxious, he may get momentary relief from pot, but it will be followed by greater anxiety and depression. While CBD is medically useful, there are very few medical conditions that benefit from THC for which there aren’t better alternatives.

Regarding drugs and psychosis: this is a real issue. My limited research on this indicate that if a person has a hidden vulnerability to mental illness that may never manifest without being triggered, drugs can provide the trigger, and the results can be permanent. I’ve witnessed this in a friend, and it’s tragic. Marijuana, and designer variants of THC in particular, have been implicated in onset of serious mental illness. (See https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/nas/mental-health.html.)

Of course you can’t control your kid past a certain point, and of course pot is very easy to get. It’s advertised on billboards where we don’t allow tobacco ads anymore, which drives me crazy. But it seems to me that the role of a parent is to push a kid towards healthy behavior. Buying your kid pot in any form seems a bad way to go.

RE: How do teens get THC edibles? ()

This has provoked fascinating discussion. I'm going to jump in with a few opinions and an observation as a pediatrician.

There is value in telling your child that you don't condone and will not enable substance use. Your approval does matter - it's not everything, but it matters, and buying stuff for your kid (booze, cannabis, whatever) gives tacit approval. The easier you make it to do, the more they'll do it. Public health research shows over and over again that if you throw up barriers to unhealthy things, use goes down. Not to zero, but it goes down.

Research that cannabis is bad for the developing brain is solid. And it's not a disputed fact that what's out there now is in a different league that what was around 20-30-40 years ago. Of course not everyone becomes addicted, but it's a real risk (as eloquently described by a number of parents who've responded).

In response to those who've argued that it's inevitable, everyone's doing it, etc, that's just wrong. Substance use among youth is way down from what it is when we were growing up. I've asked hundreds if not thousands of kids about their substance use in private. A large majority tell me they've never done anything, or they've tried it once or twice and didn't like it. I'm watching them like a hawk at this point in the conversation and most don't appear to be lying. I also ask if they have friends who use substances, and again, most say not really or a couple of acquaintances do. Occasionally someone tells me they use, their friends use, and everyone at their school uses. I see other kids from that school that know only one or two acquaintances who use. If your kid reports that it's ubiquitous, it means they're hanging out with the drinkers or smokers - and that's worrisome. I'll add the caveat that I get the impression Berkeley High has a lot more ambient substance use than the East Oakland schools my patients go to - and rates are probably higher among the better-off teens than the poor.

No judgement - your thought process was logical and obviously motivated by love and concern. But in times of anxiety, isolation, deprivation we have to help kids figure out healthy ways to feel better. Take THC and alcohol off the table as an option, and figure out ways to help them cope with their stressors that will serve them well for their whole lives.