Marijuana Use by Young Teens and Preteens

Parent Q&A

Marijuana and 14 year old son - I don't have custody Dec 9, 2019 (1 responses below)
15 year old using marijuana - success with treatment? Mar 29, 2017 (4 responses below)
  • I obtained evidence of my 14 year old son smoking/vaping marijuana and selling wax pens, by invading his privacy and logging into his account. I have not lived with him since he was five years old. I have no custody. Our interaction is limited. How can I bring about this evidence to the father, so that he can place rules upon our son? As currently, father travels and son has free range. Also it is essential this does not break my already fragile relationship and trust with my son.

    I'm sorry you are in this very difficult position. Teens all over are experimenting with cannabis and more. It's truly an epidemic problem. 

    You might take a look at:
    https://drugfree.org for loads of information on the topic,
    as well as https://the20minuteguide.com for parents that you could share with your son's father.
    Both resources might also give you ideas on how to support your son while improving your relationship.

    Your situation is all the more difficult because you do not have custody, but the doesn't mean you can't influence the situation. Best to go in positively with care and concern and without criticism or judgement (easier said than done). The hardest part will be whether the father is receptive. If he's not, it's likely there is very little you will be able to do to sway him. You may need to focus your energies on building a positive relationship with your son to find out why he's engaging in this behavior, and supporting him in a healthier direction.

    Good job addressing it early. Cannabis is not benign, despite popular opinion. (From one who's adolescent is years deep in addiction to cannabis, and whose father enables use.)

  • Hi - my 15 year old son is smoking marijuana regularly. He doesn't think there is anything wrong with it, has lied to me about it and thinks he knows more than anyone else about the benefits and liabilities. He is very bright, can talk circles around me about it, but his grades are poor. Our funds are limited and we have Kaiser insurance. His father and I are separating and are not on the same page about how to handle this – he thinks its okay for our son to smoke as long as he gets his grades up. I disagree. Have you or someone you know had success with any treatments that hopefully don't involve massive expenses? Please - I only want to hear about successes. I don't want your advice about how I should take everything away from him and keep him away from friends – unless it worked for a teenager that you know. I have read the advice on BPN on the subject. If you know of a Kaiser therapist or counselor who has been helpful, please post or send me their name. Thank you for any help.

    I guess no success stories?

    Just to echo your follow up question - I got nothin' except to say that for our daughter, getting her proper psychiatric care and treatment has been key. She still smokes pot, for sure, but at least she has improved greatly. I also suggest reading "Unbroken Brain" by Maia Szalavitz. It's a fascinating up to date look at what works and what doesn't from someone who went from being a heroin addict to a PhD in Psychology.  Spoiler alert: recent research shows that there is ALWAYS an underlying mental illness that's not being addressed properly in addictive behaviors. Read it. It really opened my eyes. Also, rehab was a failure for us - waste of time and money. Sorry - like I said, no real "success" here, just some improvements.

    Here is a (sort of) success story: the mother started talking with the son. She used every language she knew: reason, love, anger, threat, combination of some or all, etc. and never gave up on talking, discussing, lecturing, questioning, and voicing her concerns and fears to her son. The father supported the mother's point of view, and the parents encouraged the sibling to take their side, too. The parents also started painting in details, along with income figures and life amenities, different scenarios of his future with and without weed, and took him to visit different college campuses. After some long months, eventually at some point it seemed that the son realized the importance of the matter to the mother, or maybe just acknowledged her level of caring for him since she had promised to do anything that would help him, or maybe he just wanted to avoid her emotional outbursts.  For whatever reason, after months of continuous resisting, the son quit smoking marijuana. But that of course was temporary. He quit smoking heavily and continued smoking once or twice a week, got good grades and has been admitted to a good college and is now graduating. He has continued smoking marijuana on the side but not to his impediment. He does not smoke when he comes home and plans to quit it when he has a family of his own.

    The moral of the story is: do not give up. Continue patiently with your mothering role and continue encouraging him by all the means available to you and in any language you know of. It is not easy, but hang in there. Your love and support and lecturing him, i.e., your persistence, will eventually go a long way!

    Been-There Mom

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Questions

My 15yo asked me if he could try marijuana

Sept 2014

I am flumoxed on this one. Wise BPNers, please weigh in.

My 15 yr old son, a HS sophomore, who is not a big talker or confider, recently asked if he could try marijuana. He is curious about what it would feel like. He goes to a school where it is readily available, but hasn't opted in,...yet.

I told him I thought it was a bad idea. Although I wish it were legal and could be used by consenting adults like alcohol is, it isn't at this point. And because it is illegal, and because it could get him expelled from school if they found out,(he goes to a private school), I would have to say no.

This issue is further complicated by the fact that he suffers from depression and anxiety and takes an SSRI. I asked him ''what if you like it? I really don't want it to be something that you decide you want to do on a regular basis.'' And I always worry about him self medicating his anxiety with drugs or alcohol.

On the other hand, I feel like it may be inevitable that he will try it. And if I give him that opportunity by providing him with ''safe'' pot (my brother grows his own) that perhaps it would be safer than him deciding to try it with friends, in an environment I don't know, from an unpredictable source.

He is a good kid with a highly developed superego. Very serious about academics and sports and pretty conscious about what he puts in his body (went GF to see if it would help his depression and anxiety). What would you do?

Never thought I'd be asking such questions


This is a terrible idea. I'm not anti-pot by any means, but someone on his types of medications absolutely should not mix in another medication. And marijuana does seem to have an impact on the development of teens' brains.

Ask if the psychiatrist who prescribes for your son could talk to him about this and the potential psychiatric and developmental problems this could cause.

no no no!


Ask the question this way: my son wants to get drunk, should I let him? Of course not! You don't smoke pot to enhance a meal, or socially, you smoke to get stoned! It is not the same as alcohol, it is the same as drinking so much you get drunk when you have a drink - just because the behavior of intoxication is different doesn't mean the result is not the same.

Don't encourage recreational intoxication!


I would say no, never. It is your job to draw the line. Men sometimes cheat but I've never heard a wife say, ''Well since he might, I might as well let him invite a girlfriend over.'' Nope


let the kid try MJ at home. He will anyway at school and better to be in your controlled environment. I also would discourage its use and explain that its important he learn to deal with anxiety without that crutch and tell him when he is older it might be something that he can try if he wants again. I think for younger kids such as high schoolers mj can inhibit social and emotional growth. Nancy


High school Freshman buying marijuana

Feb 2013

We recently found out our daughter and her friend bought marajuana from a boy at their school. We got this info from snooping on her laptop and reading her messages. We are unsure how to proceed as her friend has the goods, we haven't had any reason to believe they have smoked it and we don't want to out ourselves and our snooping. This is great source of intelligence on what is going on. But then it makes it hard to discuss. We had a good conversation with her about her friend choices and how we suspect this guy is dealing and trouble, though she denied it all. We don't know if we should share the info with the friend's parents. Some say they wouldn't handle it well and not would backfire on my daughter. Please advise on kids smoking weed at this age. Is this common? And how to handle? Do we talk with other parents? It seems too young to be dabbling in this. I can't stop thinking about it and am unsure how to proceed. Any advice welcome, thank you. Concerned Freshman Parents


I feel your worry for your daughter. Fortunately it does not looks like she is addicted - yet. I realize marijuana is acceptable to lots of people, and is not ''addictive'' if one starts out as an adult. However, if starting as a teen, the risk/probability of marijuana becoming a gateway to more dangerous, risky behaviors is much worse. Drug addiction is HUGE. No one this age should be doing marijuana and I wish middle and high schools would do more because they only have this captive audience for so long- have dogs sniff out lockers/backpacks randomly, take action - require counseling or even a brief stint in a jail cell or visit to one of those detox centers, so they realize the severity of smoking weed. So as not to single out your daughter or anyone in particular, somehow get the school or the local police dept to do a dog-sniffing-sweep of lockers/backpacks just to let the kids know someone is watching and cares. Love our kids too much


A friend was in a similar position and found the book ''When Things Get Crazy with Your Teen'' by Bradley to be really helpful. good luck


I urge you not to consider whether using marijuana is common behavior in Berkeley as a 9th grader or otherwise. You need to consider that this is your daughter and you want her to be successful in life. If you read the next post in the last newsletter, it was about a boy who is addicted and his life is rapidly sliding downhill. You want to nip her experimental behavior in the bud (no pun intended) before it becomes a bigger problem. If it were my daughter, I would want another parent who knows she is buying marijuana (or any other drug) to contact me immediately. I would respect the other parent, not let it cause a problem in my children's relationship. In fact,this very scenario did occur when I was in high school and it was a great wake-up call. I have been a high school Health Science teacher and have run tobacco peer-education groups. Marijuana is addictive and does damage growing brains, despite what others may tell you. Also, the younger someone starts using any addictive substance, the more chance that they will become a long term user. My mom scared the **** out of me by telling me she knew I had marijuana in the house and that she was going to call the police and have them arrest me. I had 5 minutes to get it and flush it down the toilet. Result: first and last time I ever bought any illegal drug. Good luck. Time for a serious talk with your daughter in your best parent voice. It is better to use scientific facts rather than emotion in this kind of discussion (in general). There are many good on-line resources you can consult. Check with your local librarian on other resources. Get your daughter involved in enough activities that she has no time for pot. Sports are a great outlet for adrenaline. BHS also has a great peer education program connected with their clinic.


I really, really hope you do not get negative feedback for ''spying.'' I did the same for my son and many parents (those who are lazy, in my opinion) ostracized me for breaking my son's trust. Well, what I found out saved my son. I believe it is the parent's job to get the child through high school safely, whether the child ''likes'' you is least important. Is marijuana legal in California at that age? If not, isn't your child or her friend breaking the law? Is there an activity your child loves--sports, dance, art--anything that you can help her put full energy into? There are kids who do not smoke pot or drink, she could find them in an activity and the effort and money you spend on that would be the best money you ever spent. Success in something outside of high school gives kids the self confidence they need so they don't have to drink or do drugs to be comfortable with themselves. The story that followed your question is the best warning of all. Please do what you feel is right in your heart and don't let others question your actions. You are being a good parent. Concerned Mom


I think some have an exaggerated impression of the prevalence of marijuana experimentation at BHS. I asked my daughter (a junior) about this. Her guess was that 70% have tried it, and 25% use it sometimes. However when I asked about her learning community, BIHS, her estimate was that 50% have tried it and very few have used it more than a few times. Among the friends she spends time with very few have tried it. This is a skewed sample in that her friends are mostly very strong students and involved in various BHS activities, and are mostly in the middle of the Berkeley income distribution. My impression, which is just that, is that drugs are more of a problem for students with more spending money, and also with more time on their hands/less supervision. My daughter's impression is that people who are preoccupied with ''popularity'' are more likely to try marijuana or alcohol.

Having tried marijuana goes up with age, so it seems particularly serious that your 9th grader bought marijuana, which is very different from trying it when offered some. My suggestions would be to help your child find productive activities, increase after-school supervision, cut down on spending money, and insist on therapy/drug counseling. anon


One of the responses to the initial query mentioned that the schools need to get more involved in enforcing drug use restrictions and suggested getting the school and the police to bring in drug-sniffing dogs. I am sorry to say (from personal experience) that that is highly unlikely to happen in Berkeley. About 8 months ago, on a weekday morning, my teenager (16) and a friend (15), were found smoking weed by Berkeley P.D. While the officers did take them to the police station, they did not arrest them. When contacted by the police, both the other teen's parent and I (in separate calls) begged the officer to detain our children in jail overnight, and we were told ''It is our POLICY not to arrest for mere use and possession.'' My teen and I live in Oakland, and OPD has the same attitude. It is extremely frustrating to deal with that kind of institutional refusal to treat underage drug use seriously. While both teens did face consequences at home, they came away with the feeling -- no, the knowledge -- that they got away with something and could again. Which they did, with increasing frequency. So the solution to early drug use will have to come from beyond the schools. The police are not allies in this. Disillusioned


14-year-old using marijuana for medical reasons?

Oct 2010

If a 14 year old is using weed responsibly for medical issues, is it ok? What if it is helping him with major anxiety and ADD? What if I know he is not doing it to get stoned but just to feel and be more functional. What if? Regardless..... I've noticed a huge positive change within him. Better than Ritalin? In this case, much more helpful. At what age is medicinal marijuana appropriate? If at all? Both have a stigma but any opinions are welcome on this very sensitive issue. j.


Please do your research on this one, because I don't think you have all the information you need to make a decision. I can see how getting high would relax a hyperactive kid, but then, so would tobacco or alcohol, and you probably wouldn't consider that.

Try googling 'cannabis psychosis' or 'cannabis brain development.' When you google for this, you will find a lot of websites whose main purpose is to promote cannabis so don't pay much attention to those. Look for mainstream medical and scientific websites that cite actual published studies. You will learn that heavy cannabis use can interfere with brain development in teenagers. A number of studies have also shown that high THC content in marijuana can trigger psychosis in otherwise ''normal'' people.

Also please research ADD. Read about the brain chemistry differences in people with ADD, and how Ritalin addresses them. There is a lot of new research on this. Ritalin has been used since the 1940's to treat ADD, has been studied in depth, and is considered very safe for use in kids and teens. As far as I know, there have not been any studies showing that cannabis use in young teens is safe, nor that cannabis is effective in treating ADD. The data is just not there. On the contrary, there is increasing data about its harmful effects, especially the more potent cannabis that is now available.

My own experience is this: I smoked pot myself in my 20s, but stopped because it makes me have anxiety attacks. I have a brother and a sister now in their 50's who have been heavy marijuana users for most of their lives. I never thought it could be so addictive. Being high all the time has not had a positive effect on their lives, let's put it that way. My brother finally stopped using cannabis a year ago after a very severe psychotic episode that put him in a psych ward for a month. He literally was too terrified to go outside. When he came to live with me after leaving the psych ward is when I started reading up on cannibis and psychosis. Until then I did not know that smoking pot has been associated with sudden onset psychosis. My brother can control his anxiety somewhat now with anti-depressants but he still has to move frequently because ''they find out where he lives''.

I have two young adult sons who occasionally smoke. If I had known when they were in high school what I know now about cannabis, I would have done everything in my power to prevent them from smoking it. Marijuana is not safe for brain development, and kids' brains are still developing into their 20's.

I also have a younger son with pretty severe ADD who has been dramatically helped by Ritalin. I think you should read up on this, paying attention to the source, and also consult a neuropsychologist or developmental pediatrician. anon


15-year-old is smoking pot regularly, lying to us about it

Dec 2009

Our son is 15. He is a top athlete, grades are great, outgoing, confident and well liked by peers and adults however he is smoking pot regularly, sneaking out of our house, lieing to us, and we simply can not trust him anymore. We ground him, take away all forms of communication to his friends, tell him to distance himself from certain group of friends. He agrees and promises he is done smoking and asks for ''1 more chance'' to prove he won't smoke anymore. Once we start to remove restrictions, he is back to what he was doing before. He offers to be drug tested (which we did and he failed). His activities are now affecting his younger siblings since kids at the middle school have seen our older son getting stoned and are telling the younger ones.

We don't know what to do anymore. Are we the problem? Are we unrealistic and pot is OK? We are just your normal average parents trying to raise our child and teach them to make inteligent choices. We don't impose unrealistic expectations on our kids...we just want them to be happy and healthy. There are no divorce issues, no extreme grade expectations, no over indulgence of giving, we do not have drinking issues. Are we the problem? Does anyone have a counsel they can suggest in the Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon area? This is our next step since we want to help our son and the rest of our family. What has other families done who have been in the same situation as us? Danville mom


Yes, I agree your son needs help. My daughter had similar problems in high school and we are now in family therapy with Coyote Coast in Orinda. They specialize in boys with the kinds of issues that your son has. They provide family therapy, group therapy with other kids, and ''mentors'' who have various therapy degrees. They organize hikes and outdoor type activities. Here's their website: http://www.coyotecoast.org/ If they cannot help your son they will refer him to someone who can. Pot is dangerous and I recommend that you research its impact on the adolescent brain. It is also a gateway drug. (Read Beautiful Boy by David Sheff). If he promises to stop and doesn't and even asks for a drug test and then fails it - that sounds very serious to me. It means he's in extreme denial. If he truly wants to stop smoking pot and can't, he's an addict. Anon


My friends have heard me get on this soapbox more than once. We need to act as a community and stomp on this tolerance to high school students smoking pot. As my son says, it is openly smoked at lunch on the lawn between City Hall, Berkeley PD, the School District Headquarters, and BHS. No one seems to have the time to do anything about it. Don't worry about seeming uncool. When I was in high school, I purchased pot once. I was ratted out by a friend who told his mom who told my mom. My mom's response was, ''I understand you have pot in the house. I will give you five minutes to flush all of it down the toilet. If you do not comply, I will call the police and they will arrest you. Oh, and you can forget those scholarships to college.'' That was enough to stop it cold in my case, because I knew she would follow through. We need to stop being the ''cool parent'' and be the Parent. Health Educator


Dear Danville Mom,
While reading your message, I realized I could have written the same message 6 months ago. I won't go into details, but during that time, I had so much guilt for my (what I thought) ''wayward'' son. Once the smoke settled (and it took time), I realized it wasn't me after all. Like you, we have a stable home, no bells or whistles. I was a stay a home mom until one year ago. After my discovery, I wept, screamed, felt alone, and wouldn't tell anyone for fear of being judged (THAT DID NOT HELP). Once I ''unloaded'' I felt so much better, and felt like I could tackle the issues at hand.

Based on your words, try not to feel it's anything you are doing wrong. For me, smoking pot/drinking is not okay and totally unacceptable. A lot of parents find it totally normal...not me.

My son told me most of his friends do pot and/or drink alcohol (he was a 18 and a senior!). I wasn't too surprised...as long as it wasn't my son. His friends were personable, kind to our family, funny, intelligent and trustworthy. What did I know?

After my son's outings, I would stay up, I would do the sniff test; no smell of alcohol/weed, no red eyes, no late late nights...nothing! From time to time, checked out his facebook, would sneak peeks in his bedroom, and sometimes check out his texts. I didn't want to be the clueless mom. So much for that thought.

Although six months have passed, I want him to visit with a therapist so he can talk through his past and future challenges. So that you know, I have close friends with kids my age living in San Ramon (both boys). One child recently graduated h.s. and the other is a 10th grader; both kids also say EVERYONE smokes/drinks. With that said, your son is surrounded and tested by his peers daily, and not just at a party.

You'll find what's right for your family. Until then, be strong and keep doing your own research.

Very sincerely, Castro Valley Mom


Toughen up. We live in a good neighborhood which is safe, crime free and academically competent. There are drugs available easily and kids even smoke pot at school. They have the money to buy them. This makes the problem worse. By allowing your son to tell you he WILL stop and then doing nothing when he does not you are ENABLING him. Tell him from now on what he says is not what matters. You are looking at what he does. Do not allow him privileges. No money. No hanging with friends. No phone. No non school related computer time. Make him earn his privileges back by being substance free with regular testing. Don't just ask him if he is drug free. If he continues to use get him in to a treatment program. Being nice and reasonable does not work. The user will continue as long as you allow him to. You are not your son's friend-you are his parent. Lastly, don't be soft because you feel guilty that you are not perfect (don't provide enough, used pot yourself at one time, are not like all the other parents etc., etc.) That is manipulation. Imperfect parents can still do the right thing. Good Luck Mom of four, also physician.


Get in touch with the Bodin Group in Lafayette. They do educational counseling and consult with families in crisis: (www.thebodingroup.com) They can help you decide what your next steps are. I suggest you consider and look into placing your son in an appropriate Wilderness Program. It has saved the lives of at least two families I personally know. I know this sounds harsh but it is the best thing for him. Really! Anon


I wanted to write in because over the years, I've seen so many youth in my practice that fit your son's description. First, let me try to give a quick response: ''No,'' is the answer for both questions. You aren't causing your son to smoke pot and pot isn't just okay, and you're not being unreasonable.

The real difficulty is that these aren't the right questions to be asking. The questions are:
1. Can a 15-year-old male get addicted to marijuana and what are the warning signs?
2. What interventions should we try and in what sequence?

So, yes, 15 year-old boys (and girls) can and do become addicted to marijuana, in the same way that people get addicted to other legal and illicit drugs: the active ingredient(s) in the drug mirror the effects of normal neurochemicals and bind to neural receptors, creating a pathway for the drug effect that in many cases produces a feeling of well-being. THC, the active ingredient in marijuana is thought to be more psychologically than physiologically addicting, and its effects can be very desirable. The brain can become dependent on a particular state of relaxation or lessening of worry. This is attractive for people who tend to worry a lot. If your son is highly successful in school, a good athlete and has many friends, then he probably does this at a price. We all worry about whether we're ''keeping up the good work.'' Your son may feel that his pot use is under control, but his behavior is accruing unintended negative consequences for himself and the family and he has tried unsuccessfully to cut down or stop his use. These are two hallmarks of drug dependence.

If there is any family history of drug dependence/abuse in your family then his chances for developing dependence increase significantly. Secondly, in my experience, this issue usually does not resolve itself without intervention. Your son--who is probably in over his head and unable to ''pick'' which intervention he needs--is in trouble. UCB Parents has a great list of therapist recommendations. This is a family issue, not yours or your son's problem. A member of your family may be in danger, so your family will love him and respond to him by pushing for help and using professional help to outline your possible interventions. Two books are indispensable: ''Uppers, Downers and All Arounders'' and ''Over the Influence.'' Best of luck (and perseverance) to you all. Michael


I empathize with your dilemma. With a couple of changes, I could have written that letter. My son struggled with grades and had difficulty developing his natural athletic abilities. I've talked with many many parents, and always the good grades, athletic and social skills complicate the decision about whether you need to act now, or can you give them more time to mature and begin to make good decisions. Using my 20/20 hindsight, I say don't wait. The pot smoking, lying, and lack of trust are significantly serious issues. While there's a chance that your son may reverse directions, but there's a much higher probability that this train will pick up speed and you'll be forced to act later rather than sooner. By that time your younger children will have experienced the downward spiral and your family will be in crisis. We didn't act quickly. Like you, we tried many behavioral plans, none of which had any staying power. Then it became clear that we needed help (I applaud you for seeking help at this time) and because we could not enforce a behavioral plan, we chose Hyde School, a college prep boarding school in New England (Bath, ME and Woodstock, CT) that offers a character based education. Hyde appears on this site periodically, often with parents posting opposing views. My perspective is that enrolling in Hyde is the best thing that happened to us and I'm only sorry that we didn't start there sooner. Hyde is by no means a silver bullet. But it did give our son a place to experience success and to be immersed in a ''character culture''. It also took the pressure off him as the bad guy, and helped our family to heal, grow and operate as a cohesive group. I also know that a New England boarding school is not where you go as first step. However, I offer Hyde as a suggestion for when you feel that you've exhausted your local resources. Hyde works with the whole family, not just the student. They would welcome an opportunity to talk to you right now, even though you're not at the point of even considering such a big decision. Don't hope. Act. Hyde '08 Alum parent


Having dealt with a similar situation with a daughter, I can add only a few suggestions: 1)Stay vigilant 2)Keep the dialogue flowing 3)Keep the family boundaries in tact 4)Maintain a watchful eye on your children's on-line activity, texting and friends. If appropriate, touch base with parents of the children your son is hanging out with.


I'm trailing on to a couple of responses. Drinking and drug pressure is at every corner. I am a very involved parent at school, at home etc. I also sit on the Alcohol and other Drug Advisory Board here in Contra Costa County. It isn't just the kids that every one thinks are ''losers'' drinking and using. It is our Honors, Varsity, AP class kids. As parents we have to continue to educate our kids about the effects and consequences and educate the public so parents aren't having that party and serving alcohol, just because you know that they are drinking doesn't make it safe, kids get out of the house without you're knowing sometimes, and depending on the drinking experience, medical problems, prescribed drugs etc. you parents are setting yourself up for a huge fine and lawsuit. Is it really worth it?

Anyway, soapbox sorry. I have three teen boys, they all enjoy smoking pot. I don't allow it, there is a consequence if they are caught but I also know I cannot control everything and in the larger picture I have great kids. Our kids have to make mistakes, hopefully it will not affect the community when they do. Tell your son you do not give him permission to do this and there will be a consequence for his actions just like grown ups have,be there and watch. Every kid is different and every family will have to face their challenges in different ways. Good Luck..Lisa 


Pot smoking in middle school

Nov 2009

I was scanning my 13 year old daughter's text messages (yes, I do that), and she told a friend that she had smoked pot with several other school friends. She texted to this friend that she had ''tried'' it, and that they were going to do it again this week.

My dilemma is that when I speak to her about drugs and such, she totally agrees and promises that she would never do drugs (she has a straight A average, and is into sports). I am surprised that she is trying pot, and also surprised that she is lying to me about it. She has always been well behaved, follows rules, and is not a problem at all at home.

What do I do? If I confront her, she will know that I am reading her texts and she will start to delete them. Her father and I both work full time, so we cannot follow her around, but she comes straight home after school each day (we have a babysitter for her younger sibling who says that our daughter is home when she gets here every day). She is with us all weekend. I cannot figure out WHEN this has taken place.

Any ideas about how to handle this would be great. Not my kid!


Hi, What I do when I have info that I garner from sources I don't want to share, I say something like.'' oh, I got a phone call from a mom and I hear that you are smoking pot with some kids. I'm not going to ask you to tell me whether this is true, because I don't want you to have to lie to me.'' I also lay it on heavy about if you get suspended, which you will because kids talk just like this kid did to a parent, you will get ''busted'' and get suspended. It stays on your record and in some districts it goes onto your high school record and would be shared with colleges. I lay it on really heavy. I too have a daughter that ''schmoozes'' and says all the right things, but...she thinks that ''her mom has spies all over'' and it keeps her in line, until she's mature enough to figure out that certain things aren't ok and are not cool! parent


Just an idea. She might be lying to her friend so she can fit in and telling you the truth? There is a lot of peer pressure at this age................ Anon


Is it possible your daughter is lying to her friend? Maybe to sound cool? I definately remember doing things like that at that age. Sorry, I don't have any suggestions otherwise...just a different angle. anon mom


My middle son started smoking pot at BHS. He was a varsity team captain and is now graduating from UCSD six months early with a degree in economics. Yes I know I'm lucky. I would have told him that he could smoke pot on the weekends after he got a BA. And yes I know unproductive pot smoking kids who will always be that, but smoking pot does not have to be the end of the world either. anonymous


How to deal with young teens smoking pot?!

April 2009

In the past few months we have discovered that first our 15 year old and then our 13 year old boys are smoking pot with their friends from school.Only on week-ends. They're maintaining A's and B's in school. The older boy was open and honest about details and agreed to tell us names of who he smoked with, where he bought the pot, etc. on condition that we not tell the parents of those kids. We agreed at the time because he managed to convince us that he really was going to stop and for a while it seemed like he had. Lately I am suspicious and will be bringing it up with him very soon. I feel like we need to include these other parents in the project of watching these kids more closely. However, I don't know most of these people. My boys are at a new school and I don't know a lot of their new friends and almost none of the parents. Also, once those kids learn that my son told us names and details how will that affect friendships....

It was truly awful to find out 3 weeks ago that my youngest was also getting high. And he has a more defiant attitude about it. Feels like there's nothing so bad about occasionally doing it. Won't say he won't ever do it again and won't say where he got it. ANYWAY, there's a lot to say about the feelings this stirs up and the confusion about how to deal with it and keep dealing with it over time. I would REALLY appreciate feedback from folks who have been there and how you've dealt with it. What do you do the second time you catch them? The third time? How do you keep the lines of communication open? If you're meting out consequences are they really going to be honest with you about their drug/alcohol use? So far we've grounded them. Maybe that's not really all that effective.

They're JUST TOO YOUNG to be getting into this stuff!! Thanks for your advice. worried mom


Well, I'm sorry to hear about your situation. It's a really hard thing to deal with. I can only tell you what I've done with my daughter and that some things have changed and some have not. At first I took the attitude that it wasn't okay at all. It shocked her to how upset I was. We talked A LOT about the effects of pot and the long-term use, as far as procrastination and brain development. I talked about people I knew when I was younger, I talked about my bad experiences (which I did have, never really liked it). I've asked her to talk about how it makes her feel. Why is she smoking? What does it do for her. She's gone in and out of smoking more and less. She had bouts of smoking at school and also on the weekends. I used to meet her everyday at lunchtime because she would get stoned and not go back to school if I didn't. I tell her no smoking in my house and I don't want stoned people in my house either. I don't want IT in my house! Then I grew to see that she was not going to stop altogether. She has been saying for a while that she only smokes on the weekends when she has no responsibilities. Now I think about in terms of damage control. Her learning her limits and me keeping a watch on her and letting her know when I think it's too much. She's careful (I think) about not driving with people who have been partying, and does not drive herself when she has. I can't tell you here how much we've talked about it over the years, but believe me it's been an ongoing issue.

As far as the other parents, if they were friends of mine I would bring it up. If not, then I decided not to. I think it's important to say what YOU feel, if you are against certain behavior, then say it. The other thing is to help the kids to be aware of how they feel underneath it all. To trust their instincts about people, what others are doing, and what will happen to them in a particular situation. Is it safe? Stupid? I also tried to give my daughter the words to say ''no''. How much this helped I don't know. But we did talk a lot about doing things differently and avoiding situations where the blunt was being passed. Not all came from me, she had ideas also.

I hope some of this helps. Go from your gut! anon


I certainly can understand your concern. My son, who is 14 yrs old has been smoking pot for about 9 months. Although many of us parents know this is too young to be smoking and drinking. The reality is that many of our kids our doing this on the weekends and sometimes after school. This is no different, then when I was in middle school in 1979. We have decided to approach this in an unorthodox way. We would prefer that our son is honest with us about drinking, smoking, sex, etc... this way we can inform him of the dangers, he can confide us and have an open/honest relationship without having to lie and sneak around. We are tolerating (within reason)this activity provided that his grades are acceptable and he is being responsible. While many parents wouldn't agree with this approach we feel for now it's working. Our son has no problem telling us what he and his friends are up to, so we know when he plans to go to party and there's going to be smoking and drinking. He feels comfortable confiding in us and has told us of how his friends lie and make arrangements, so their parents won't find out. I've talked to a few parents that are taking a similar approach. However, I have talked to some parents who are drug testing their kids. The kids continue to smoke anyway and some have run away from home. These kids are experimenting with drinking and smoking and are by no means drug addicts, but they are being treated as such. Parents are responding out of fear that their child will move on to harder drugs and become an addict. However, parents should be careful because all of the drug testing, counseling and rehab can be damaging to the teen if it's not warranted. It's a tough situation and every teen and family are different. What works for one teen may not for the other. One thing for sure is you're not alone. LM


To Worried Mom,

You are in the drivers seat. I implore you to keep up with those consequences. Set up a family agreement, or teen contract that states what happens if they smoke. Be clear, and follow through. Whatever your feelings are around tolerance in the long run, it is a no-go for them to be smoking pot right now and for a determined period of time, so both kids can show you they can stop. Grounded is good. Consequences of a 24 hour freeze of cell phone, computer and TV can annoy them too, which is about all you can hope for in a consequence. Zero tolerance--no exceptions.

Don't wait, because if you do, recreational can turn to abuse very quickly in young people, and it is true that pot can often lead to other drugs. If you wait, others might have to be administering the consequences, such as school, youth programs, and the law.

Read up about addiction. Read Parenting Teens with Love and Logic.

I could have used some stronger advice for my Berkeley High son, so please excuse my emphatic response. Mom of a 16 year old addict


I actually waited to see what other parents had to say before I commented. Now I am ready to answer and it will be unpopular. Your sons are TOO YOUNG to be smoking pot on a regular basis. It is an illegal drug, and you can be held liable for allowing them to do so, especially a 13 y.o. The argument ''they're going to do it anyway'' doesn't make sense when you are really keeping track of what your kids are doing, and that's what you have to do from now on. Yes, tell the other parents. I would be totally angry at a parent who knew my child was doing something illegal and didn't tell me.

The way we explained it to our kids is that drinking is an adult decision and when you are an adult, you can make the decision to drink alcohol or not. We pretty much said the same thing with smoking pot, but we added that pot was still illegal, and when you make the adult decision to smoke it, you also take the adult risk of getting arrested.

Not that my kids are angels. I know my older daughter tried pot when she was 16, and at 20, she doesn't really like it. My 17 y.o. has said she has been offered at a prty but is afraid to smoke anything because of her asthma.

Good luck with your boys. I know pot should be legal, but treat it like alcohol. You wouldn't want your kid staggering around with alcohol on his breath. mj


You have received some good feedback on this newsletter. I would like to add that a substantial body of research shows that delaying onset of substance use or experimentation leads to better outcomes. Thus, no matter how one feels philosophically about the ''they will do it anyway'' argument, your efforts to provide greater supervision and limit their opportunity to use substances will be worthwhile. And children do internalize parental values even if it doesn't look like it from their behavior. You should consider carefully how your responses reflect your values. Limit-setting may be perceived as frustrating by them, but it is also perceived as protective and loving.

I encourage you to keep the lines of communication open with your children and to make an effort to communicate with your children's friends. The more information you have about their attitudes and activities, the better. Listen as much as you can. Don't be afraid to hear! You can provide empathy and validation of their feelings without capitulating to the pressure to be a ''cool'' parent and turn a blind eye to drug use. Your kids may roll their eyes, but there is quite a bit of peer pressure around substance abuse, and they are not as immune as they think. Some things to consider - is depression a factor here? ADHD or learning disabilities? Anger being acted out? Family history of substance abuse or dependence? Kids bored or alienated from school and age-appropriate social and extracurricular activities? How is the family functioning?

It can be hard for parents to take a stand on drugs and alcohol, especially in the face of your children telling you that other parents are permissive. A therapist can help assess your teen(s) and provide recommendations and treatment if treatment is indicated. A therapist can also help you sort out the issues and your feelings and provide guidance and support in setting limits and communicating with your children.

The NIDA website has some good information about drugs and alcohol. Also, when I was a post-doc at Kaiser in San Rafael, we had a wonderful multi-family group where teens and parents could talk about these issues in a supportive environment. Perhaps there is similar group available through your insurance. Best of luck to you. Ilene


14yo daughter is cutting classes and smoking pot

Nov 2005

Hi, I'm the parent of a bright, motivated sophomore at BHS. Lately, I discovered that she has been smoking pot. I think this first happened toward the spring of 9th grade and has been fairly sporadic. Recently, though, it's been once a week. This week she skipped a day of school and smoked pot. I'm pretty much at a loss. She keeps up with her school work, and is interested in school (more so this year than last). I'm worried about what I see as a downward trend, though. Anyway -- these are my questions: Is this normal teenage risk-taking behavior? Do all kids at BHS smoke pot, so I should just not worry about it? Since, frankly, I am worried about it, how do I keep her away from all the pot that seems to be freely available at BHS, and from all her friends, who are apparently also all smoking pot? I'm trying to remember what I did as a teenager -- I had sex at 17, drank an occasional beer and smoked a little bit of pot in college. To me, 15 seems much too young for any of this. Am I hopelessly old-fashioned? Isn't this bad for a developing brain? Help! anonymous


I have a daughter who is a senior at BHS. We have gone through many of the growing pains of high school: cutting classes, alcohol consumption, drug use, sex, etc. The first thing I realized is that we as parents cannot control their actions. We cannot keep them away from drugs or stop them from cutting classes. We can only let them know how we feel. And the most important thing for me, was to let her know that I wanted her to be safe and feel comfortable with her actions. This meant, I knew she would probably try drinking, smoking, cutting classes, etc. all, atleast once.

I let her know that I didn't think it was a good idea, but that if she was going to do it, to do it in a safe environment, and always know that she could call us, if she ever felt unsafe or uncomfortable. That her safety was more important than the fact that she was drinking or whatever. We also had many conversations about her experiences with friends drinking, getting high, etc. and she gave her opinion and we gave our opinion. Hopefully her comfort level with being able to talk to us about her experiences, as opposed to feeling like she had to hide them, allowed her to see them from a different perspective, and helped her to make more informed choices. The same with cutting classes. She usually calls to let us know if she is missing a class, and why. She knows we don't encourage it on a regular basis, but it's ok once in a while, to take a break. We felt it was more important to be realistic about what she might try, and have some communication about it, rather than ram our expectations down her throat and have no idea what is going on.

We cannot control our kids actions, the best we can do is to let them know that we support them. Good luck with your daughter.


I'm sure you'll get lots of thoughtful answers to this question -- so I'll give you one that's a little more visceral.

PLEASE....Stand up for your kid's health and safety --- even if it seems like ''everyone is doing it'' (insert activity here...drugs, sex, skipping class, etc.). 15 is too young for a lot of things that your kid will be exposed to at Berkeley High...If you are not willing to draw a line for her between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.... you better believe no one else will do it.

Whatever age you were when you did various things... I think a more appropriate question is whether you later regretted doing some of them, or would have been harmed by NOT doing them in high school. And remember, high school in a time of AIDS and various available drugs isn't really the same mostly benign experience it was for us baby boomers. Peer pressure is strong, but your opinion matters, too. Be clear and consistent.

Here are some of the mantras I mumble throughout my day:

''I don't regret what I didn't (get to) do as a teenager, just some of the things I did.''

''Most of our lives are lived over the age of 18 -- so what's the hurry?''

My favorite, after 17 years, is still:

''Most kids DO grow up'' (the odds really are in your favor...)

Please feel free to contact me for support in being hopelessly old fashioned, and don't be swayed by your parent ''peers''. You owe it to your kids --- even if you're just giving them a firm boundary to step over from time to time. Heather


Hi, I don't have ANY advice, but I am curious to hear what others will say. I am in a similar position, but my daughter is in 9th grade. She's started smoking pot and skipping class, not the whole day but here and there the classes she doesn't care for as much. We have put an end to the skipping problem for the moment. I told her I would walk her to every class! But the pot-smoking is an issue also. It does seem VERY accessible at school. While I can't stop her from smoking, I tell her I don't want her to and we talk about the reasons why: bad for lungs (she's an athlete); one's guard goes down and could be unsafe; illegal-if she gets caught she's in big trouble, etc. I think there is a balance between saying you don't want a kid to do something, but also are able to be there to hear them when they need to talk about it if they feel bad, without making a judgement. I'm struggling with that. We have addiction in our families so my fears are slightly compounded. We have been talking about how she feels when she's high and how it makes her feel relaxed and uninhibited, which is a nice feeling, but we've also been talking about when it becomes something to rely on, and then it's not recreational anymore. I tell her I would like her to be able to relax and relate to people without drugs, it's more ''real'' that way, and everyone remembers what they said the next day! She also likes the way the world seems different, I said, ''try quantum physics!'' I think only a few of her friends smoke too, but she's really tight- lipped about it, especially about where she gets it! For the most part, she's doing well, adjusting to the size and freedoms of BHS, and I'm hoping we will get most of this stuff over with the first year! I'm optimistic. I guess we just have to keep talking about it with each other and with our kids. By the way, I was 13 when I started smoking, drinking and having sex. By high school I didn't want to smoke anymore and drinking didn't have a big allure either (sex, well...). It's good to keep in mind that my kid is not like me in many respects, but I can warn her of what's out there and what to be cautious about. I made it through adolescence and so did many people who also started with this stuff young!

Good luck, and I look forward to reading the other responses. anon


We caught sophomore son smoking

Help! My sophomore son was smoking marijuana with friends who stayed overnight at our house. (We woke up and smelled it.) I'd like to know what other parents have done. Our son is a below-average student but always has been. There hasn't been a marked change in his behavior, but he's had a couple of tantrums that I suspect may have been because he was stoned. He is spending more time with video games etc. and less with what I think of as constructive activities, but it's not a big change. In other words, he could be smoking a lot, or this could have been an isolated lark, as he claims. Many parents must have faced this -- Can some of you let me know what worked, or didn't work? Thanks.


I recommend you talk confidentially with Anthony, the head of the health center at Berkeley High. He's had a lot of experience with this.


My son began smoking marijuana with his friends on the weekend when he was 15 (two years ago) and continues to do it now and then. Not every day, not every week, but probably several times a month. He was very secretive but left evidence lying around in his room. He has never been a great student, and I have not seen any change in his grades for better or worse in the past 2 years. Most of his friends are very ambitious, excellent students. I talked to one friend's mom about it. We basically both agreed to stress that this is something that should never be done during the week, that it should never be allowed to interfere with school and extra-curricular activities (which they are all active in) and that we expect them to behave responsibly. My son and his friends also drink occasionally, at parties and on the sly when someone's parents are out of town. I strongly disapprove of this, though they reassure me they never drive when they are drinking. We have had many discussion about this. Frankly, I worry a lot more about alcohol than about marijuana. As far as I know, kids don't overdose and die from marijuana, but alcohol is a different story, and college kids are all the time drinking themselves into comas. So personally as long as the smoking is not interfering with his life, I look the other way. I am not recommending this approach, I'm just saying this is what we do and it has worked for us.


I am the parent of a teen who is currently in a residential treatment center (RTC). While he was never a great student and struggled a lot all through school, we started seeing a steep decline from the eighth grade on. In ninth grade he admitted he had a problem with marijuana and asked us to get him help. We enrolled in a nine month outpatient drug rehab program which consisted of family, peer and individual counseling. By the beginning of tenth grade, though, our son was failing school outright. When he began running away from home we realized we could no longer handle the problem at home and found the RTC, where he has resided for the past 15 months. He is a changed boy. About seven months ago, he confessed to us that he had never stopped using drugs, not even during the outpatient program: he learned all the tricks to mask drug detection by urine tests and used alcohol and Vicodin (a potentially deadly combination), which are quickly cleared from the system. All this is to say that your son's problem may be bigger than you think. Kids who are struggling in school often use marijuana to self-medicate for anxiety; or they use it to avoid fears of failure (or success) or for peer acceptance or for any number of other reasons. If they have addictive personalities, they can't just stop with one joint (or one beer). Our son was smoking marijuana four times a day at the time he went to the RTC.

Don't expect to get help from other parents - most of our son's friends' parents closed their eyes to the problem, especially if their child was successful in school (although since then, we've discovered several kids who had been doing well in school, but were using, are no longer doing well in eleventh grade). There isn't a lot of professional help here in the East Bay, either. I believe the only program for teens is the inpatient program at Thunder Road in Oakland. (I've since learned that outpatient programs, in general, aren't effective, anyway.) It takes serious therapy to change behavior and a long time to integrate that behavior: the problem didn't happen overnight and there are no quick fixes.

Talk to your son openly; see if you can find out more about what's going on, what's driving his use of marijuana, and how much and how often he's using. He may hate the situation he's in and not know how to get out of it. See if you can restrict him from seeing the friends he smokes with (this is not easy; peers are everything). Also, I would let his friends' parents know the situation, although they may not be willing to support you (ie., they may continue allow your son at their house even if you don't want him there, or not supervise the kids even if you request they do). In our situation, we found that, while our son was living at home, restricting privileges didn't work. He got around any restrictions by running away. For the same reason, consequences didn't work: he wasn't around to suffer them. If you're serious, you have to step up your own vigilence. However, my experience tells me that if your son is flaunting your authority or lying to you, whatever you attempt at this point (at home) is too little, too late. In my son's case, he had to be put in a truly restrictive environment, with positively no way out, before change was possible. I'm sure you will get lots of other advice, but this is mine in a worst-case scenario.


13-year-old has been smoking with his friends

We recently learned that our 13 year old has been trying marijuana (2-3 times) with a few of his friends. We contacted the other parents - including the source, andhave had several serious discussion with our teen - but have yet to impose any specific punishments - but are concerned that there should be consequences. We would be interested to hear how others have handled their first discussion with their teens who have started experimenting - and what if any consequences were applied. Please reply - thanks, Anon.


I'd like to share our experience with marijuana. It sounds as though we were a lot farther down the road of substance abuse potential when we learned of the problem, but I hope that some of this information can be helpful to you or other parents out there. We are pretty watchful and involved parents and were shocked last year when we discovered that our well-behaved, communicative, straight-A student, athletic14 year old had been smoking pot 2-3 weekends a month plus occasional binge drinking with friends for over a year. She called it experimenting, said that it helped her relax, and apparently the mythology in her peer group of artists and musicians was that it enabled them to be more creative. We talked with a number of parents of older teens, some friends who are drug counselors, and actually went for an evaluation at a drug treatment center in hopes of getting advice about how to deal with our concerns about this. While we learned a lot of helpful information, we also found that there is very little help available out there for teens who are at risk but not yet at the point of chronic use or dependence.

This is what we learned:

1. Experimenting is defined as trying pot 5 or 6 times and then stopping use. Using 2 or 4 times a month on some sort of regular basis puts one at risk of chronic use and dependence.

2. The pot that our kids are smoking is 5 to 14 times stronger than the stuff we were smoking in the 60's. Most of the studies that have been done so far on effects of marijuana use are based on the older, lower strengths of the drug.

3. Younger adolescents are at highest risk of substance abuse. The respiratory tracts of adolescents are more susceptible to damage from carcinogens and other pollutants in marijuana smoke. New studies show that the human brain is still developing until the mid-20's. The last areas to develop are those that involve judgement and reasoning. Marijuana impairs the development of these areas of the brain. Also, because it targets and affects certain mood-altering neurotransmitters it can more quickly create dependence/addiction in a younger brain that is still developing.

4. Susceptibility to dependence/addiction can be hereditary. A family with a history of depression or other mood disorders or alcohol/drug abuse can mean that the child is more at risk. Using marijuana or other external substances as a crutch for dealing with anxiety or depression impedes the child's development of their own internal resources.

Our family rules are based on health and safety issues - when necessary, these areas are pretty broadly defined. We had some long discussions with our daughter about the above information and used it as the basis for our position that she must abstain from all mood-altering substances. We had discussions with all the parents involved and learned to our dismay that most were unwilling to intercede in their children's behavior or else talked a good line about strict supervision but never followed through. We learned that one parent allowed the kids to smoke in the home while she was there. As a result, we have had to enforce some pretty strict rules about certain homes being off limits and adult supervision required in those that weren't off limits.

We have committed to abstinence ourselves (previously drank occasional beer or wine at home) to support our child's commitment to abstinence and also to better understand her motivations. We are participating in family counseling to deal with the stressors which she says led her to look to pot for relaxation and she is enjoying yoga and meditation classes.

The last year has been challenging but we have definitely seen a payoff. Our family relationships are better and more open. Our daughter continues to do well in school and has on her own pulled loose from the problematic friends as she has watched them slide downhill. She protested loudly in the beginning that we were overreacting to normal adolescent behavior but at the same time seemed comforted that we did care enough to intercede.

In answer to your question about consequences: the restrictions on unsupervised time was the main consequence we imposed. Other parents we talked with have required attendance at 12-step meetings so that the child can hear first hand other teens' experiences with the consequences of chemical dependence, and have used random drug screening as a safety net (they say it gives their child an out when pressured by peers to participate).

We still struggle with occasional self-doubt about the way in which we interceded (and I think a big part of this is related to the lack of support we got from other parents) but I commend you for taking this seriously at an early stage and hope that by doing so you will be spared some of the heartache that we've seen other families endure.


Thanks for writing about your experience. I hope my support can replace that of some of the parents you dealt with. I'm especially impressed by your willingness to communicate, to care and even to alter your own behavior to reflect your expectations for your daughter. I know that most of us believe our children are the most precious thing in the world -- but sometimes we duck the hard work of really raising them. Thanks again. Heather


re marijuana... I respect your approach, and admire the way you back up your rules for your kids with your own example of a drug-free and alcohol-free home. But this approach is not the right one for my family, and I have a different take on it. I never had to deal with the issue of a young teen smoking pot, so I'm not addressing that, but my opinion is that for older teens, it is OK in moderation, assuming there are not other problems that will be made worse by it. I know that my 18-year-old occasionally smokes, probably my 16-year-old has tried it also, though the younger one gets more supervision so it's harder for him to do things I don't know about. But I think: they can see for themselves that it isn't evil and dangerous, and I can't honestly say myself that any harm will come to a well-adjusted kid smoking marijuana now and then. I am a hundred times more worried about alcohol abuse, and would rather save my heavy artillery for that battle, should it arise. My approach on marijuana is to talk about it with them, and I answer honestly when they ask about my own experience and my opinions, which they do. I would never encourage them to smoke marijuana; I don't smoke anymore myself, and I certainly wouldn't hang out with my kids smoking a joint. But when the 18-year-old goes up to the attic with his buddy and they open all the windows and burn incense, I know what they're doing, and they know that I know, but they don't tell me and I don't ask. The truth is, I just don't see it as a big worry.

The original letter did make me think about our responsibility for other peoples' kids. No parent wants to be the unwitting host of activities that are forbidden by other parents. I have talked to the parents of my kids' closest friends about marijuana and alcohol and I've we have called each other when we've made discoveries at home. In general we've come pretty close to having the same approach. What would I do if another parent phoned me whose approach was very different from mine? I'd respect their opinion, and I'd pass the word on to my kids, but I would give them my own opinion too, and hope that my opinion would receive the same respect that theirs gets.