Just Ask Ben - Nov. 2013
I think my 17-year-old son is smoking pot. I found a small pipe in his backpack. What should I do? I certainly smoked a bit in high school and college. Doesn’t seem to have hurt me and it seems better than alcohol. Should I be concerned?
Thank you so much for writing. Of course there is no way to know if you should be concerned without more information. Experimentation with pot as a teen is one thing, regular use is something else. It’s is important to figure out which it is. If you have seen your son’s behavior changing in negative ways, you might consider doing this more quickly.
Before confronting your son, I recommend you get a bit more educated. There is so much misinformation on the Internet about the effects of marijuana. It is easy to find dozens of articles “proving” that pot is not only non-addictive, but actually helpful. But what I see in my office shows a different picture. I can predict with almost 100 percent accuracy which of my clients started smoking pot regularly as teens and continued into adulthood. They present in very similar ways: lethargic, unmotivated, unable to figure out what they want to do with their lives, and developmentally and emotionally delayed. The science of the effects of THC on the brain and why this happens is very, very clear.
In short, the effect of THC on the brain is to make things incredibly interesting and novel. However, over time, THC has less of an impact. Regular smokers have to ingest more and more THC to get the same effect. Eventually, an interesting switch occurs. THC becomes necessary to have what used to be a “normal” level of interest in things. On the other hand, increasingly when THC is not in the system, things become boring and tedious. In other words, in order to the world to not feel blah, one has to be high. This can become a slow-moving train wreck in terms of meetings one’s potential in life. Of note, the likelihood of harmful impact is greatly increased when pot smoking begins when the brain is still developing, as it is with your adolescent son.
A wonderful book to help educate you and figure out what to do next is called, “Marijuana: What’s a Parent to Believe?” by Timmen Cermak. Once you are educated, I would recommend sitting down with your son and having him read the relevant passages. Empathize with him and explain that you understand the desire to have new experiences. Normalize the amazing feeling that pot can provide. All the while, try to find out how often he smokes pot. From there, make sure he understands that regular, prolonged use as a teen virtually guarantees he will have negative side effects on his brain and in his relationship to the world as an emerging adult. Show him the irrefutable science. If your relationship is to the point where he refuses to even have a conversation, call a therapist and insist he attend. It might also be a good idea to seek the advice of an expert should you be at a loss how to approach the issue.
Ben Elfant-Rea has been a psychotherapist for 10 years. His office is located in San Luis Obispo. To ask Ben a question email it to Ben@informationpress.net.