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Teen Alcohol and Marijuana Use on the Rise

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How can we stop our kids from putting themselves at risk?

teens smoking and drinking

Anew studyhas found that alcohol and marijuana use among teens is on the rise, ending a decade-long decline.

Thirty-nine percent of teens in grades 9 through 12 reported drinking alcohol in the last month, and 25 percent reported smoking marijuana in the past 30 days.

Gulp. For mothers, those statistics certainly are alarming. How can we discourage our kids from such risky behaviors? Good communication is key.

Talking to teens about pot

The websiteParents: The Anti-Drughas some great sample conversation-starters here, with expert advice on talking to your teen about marijuana, including:

* Take initiative in getting educated about the dangers of today's marijuana and other drugs. Much has changed in the last generation and the risks are much higher. We know a lot more about how marijuana affects a teen's developing brain.

* Encourage your teen's input. Listen to what your teen has to say and don't make value judgments. Teenagers want respect as much as you do.

* If you haven't done so, now is the time to set clear rules and consequences about drug/alcohol use. Explain them to your teen and regularly remind him/her of your expectations.

* Don't expect everything to go smoothly. You have a teenager, and there will be conflict. Just remember to stay calm and loving.

Talking to teens about drinking

MADD recommends the following five steps for parents:

Step 1: Think of yourself as a coach
Your role in preventing underage drinking is similar to coaching. You can help your teen by:

* Sharing information
* Discussing choices and monitoring behavior
* Helping your teen anticipate and handle challenging situations
* Cheering your teen on to make smart, safe choices

Step 2: Get busy communicating
Begin a series of conversations with your son or daughter -- proactively, before he or she gets caught drinking -- about how:

* Alcohol is a drug with serious sedative effects
* Drinking has health dangers and other risks for young people
* It is illegal to drink before the age of 21
* You want your teen to be safe and respect the law
* Your teen can plan ways to resist peer pressure to drink

Step 3: Keep track of your teen
You need to know what your teen does after school, at night and on weekends -- and with whom.

* Agree on rules, limits and consequences
* Monitor all in-person and online activities
* Know your teen's schedule
* Make sure he or she has your permission for activities
* Talk to parents of kids with whom your teen spends time
* Enforce consequences consistently

Step 4: Show respect and caring
Your teen will respond better when you

* Listen respectfully to his or her ideas and concerns
* Explain that rules, limits and consequences are meant to protect them
* Help your teen think logically and make smart choices
* Remind your teen how much you love and care about them

Step 5: Be a positive role model
Your teen will be most receptive to your guidance if you lead by example and act responsibly.

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67 comments so far | Post a comment now
b March 4, 2010, 7:06 AM

I like how the most important way to prevent it got one sentence and is the last thing you read. DON’T DO IT YOURSELF! Seriously, if it’s not in your house, it’s a lot harder to get; and if everyone didn’t have it around, it would be really difficult to get. Why wouldn’t kids who see their parents coping with life through drinks and smokes choose to learn other coping mechanisms. If you think that you can drink responsibly and smoke responsibly you’re fooling yourself. You have opened pandora’s box and who knows what you’ll get. With all the potential risks that come from your own drinking or drug use, why would you ever choose it, and why would you ever ever consider letting your children see you do it?

chris March 4, 2010, 7:20 AM

Why wouldn’t more teenagers smoke pot now. Look at all the adults who smoke it and look at all the states that are making it legal to smoke pot. There is no way you can convince me that everyone who has a medical card to smoke pot really needs it. I saw two guys and a girl on tv the other day who were smoking a joint in a parking garage and when the report asked them if they were legal to smoke it, the two guys both had a medical card for it because they suffered from headaches…PLEASE… what is wrong with these doctors who are giving them permession? The girl said she smoked it just to get high. Again, we as a society keep questioning what is wrong with kids these days, well you just need to look at the adults and have your answer. Parents need to be a better role model for their kids. I also have neighbors who every weekend throw parties and their friends all bring their kids over to hang out with their kids, they stay up till 2am or later and every adult there is totally drunk by the end of the night. My husband and I went over once and realized that we just didn’t want to do it with our kids. The other thing I see coming from this is the next generation of alcoholics. Very sad.

Aprilcot26 March 4, 2010, 8:16 AM

to B - Not every adult who drinks uses it as a “coping mechanism.” My husband and I enjoy the occasional beer or glass of wine…you can’t claim that I can’t responsibly enjoy alcohol when you’ve never met me. Obviously I would never support underage drinking, but to think that keeping alcohol out of your home will detract from it is just foolish.

john March 4, 2010, 10:08 AM

I personally think marijuana should be legal (for adults). It’s pretty safe in moderation Compared to other unhealthy habits such as alcohol, cigs, and fast food.

With that said, I don’t think it’s something teenagers should be doing (although quite a few will, and most of them will turn out just fine).

I think the key is just having an honest open relationship with your children. Don’t punish them too much if they make a mistake in life, but don’t go too easy on them either. It’s a hard thing to balance, but it’s doable.

JackStraw March 4, 2010, 11:08 AM

How to help your kids: stop trying to control every aspect of their lives. let them know the importance of moderation so they don’t get out of control and stress the importance of hard-work whether you’re high or not.

Anonymous March 4, 2010, 11:59 AM

Marijuana has had thousands of studies done on it and every legitimate one has had the results that marijuana is not all that harmful. I would never suggest inhaling the smoke of any dried plant matter but to compare it to alcohol is ludicrous.

Andrew March 4, 2010, 12:19 PM

Instead of fearing and desperatly trying to prevent kids from abstaining, somthing that honestly is against human nature. why not try to educate on responsible use?

Erin March 4, 2010, 12:20 PM

I’m sorry, but is it just me or is 39% really not that alarming? I do not consider myself a naive mother, and I am sure that statistic is probably not 100% accurate (likely higher I would assume) - but when I read the headline for this story I was honestly anticipating far worse!

b March 4, 2010, 1:17 PM

really? marijuana is harmless? that’s why it’s called a gateway drug and that’s why it contains more carcinogens that cigarettes and cigars combined (you’d have to smoke 7 cigs at once to get the same amount of tar and all the other crap that cigarettes contain)? Right. No side effects. Not harmful. And since smoking related illnesses are #1 in terms of preventable deaths, lets just keep on smoking joint, get lung cancer, emphysema, high blood pressure, clogged arteries, have heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots, etc. And lets just pretend that all that doesn’t cause the cost of health care to skyrocket….oh wait, who cares about that, since the President’s gonna pay my doctors’ bills. Right. And that doesn’t even address the issues of crimes committed while under the influence, drugged/drunk driving, the loss of work days, the loss of opportunities, the loss of productivity, the loss of time spend participating in these activities. If you think there are no harmful effects, think again. They are everywhere, stretch into every part of life and affect everyone.

epro March 4, 2010, 3:55 PM

This article is hilarious! While more and more people are overdosing on alcohol, prescription pills and drugs like meth and heroin the media and government tell the public lies about marijuana as if it’s single handedly tearing the country apart. People, please..educate yourselfs. Don’t listen to the outright lies they feed you in the media. Do a little research on the subject and make your own opinions.

epro March 4, 2010, 4:18 PM

One more thing. B…there has NEVER been a recorded case of cancer (any type) being caused by marijuana use alone. Probably why it’s used for CANCER patients to help the nausea and lack of appetite. And a gateway drug…really? Just because I may smoke a joint once in a while that means I’m a candidate for meth, heroine or other hardcore drugs? Where’s the logic in that? And I’m curious..what type of crimes do you hear about when people are under the influence of marijuana? Are they violent crimes of men coming home stoned and beating their wife and kids…no they’re not..that would be alcohol/meth/speed/cocaine..not marijuana. I wonder what other lies you so blindly believe..

Anonymous March 4, 2010, 7:02 PM

whats on the rise is wimpy parents if your a parent get control of your kids by force if you have to

john March 4, 2010, 7:28 PM

at b- . You do realize you don’t have to smoke marijuana right ? Also your wrong in saying you need to smoke 7 cigs to get ‘all the crap’ a joint has in it. It’s just tar that is more present (which obviously isn’t good for you).

I’m not saying Marijuana is healthy, because it’s not. But fast food consumption in America causes more health problems than the occasional joint will.

Is marijuana bad for your health? Of course. Is it so horrible that using it in moderation is going to cause serious health problems ? No.

I personally don’t smoke pot (although I did when I was a youth), but I know some people that do and most of them don’t have health problems. I know of one friend of mine who has been smoking marijuana since his youth (in moderation) and he just placed second place in a state triathlon, so I find it hard to believe marijuana has had a huge negative impact on his health.

My biggest reason for not wanting my kids to use pot is because it’s illegal and the legal ramifications can turn your life upside down. I will punish them if/when I ever catch them using pot, however I’m not going to lose much sleep over or start over exaggerating things as long as my children are taking care of their priorities like education/work and overall living a healthy lifestyle.

john March 4, 2010, 7:40 PM

As far as car accidents and marijuana/drinking goes. That’s not an issue with drugs or drinking, that’s in issue of a bad driver.

How many accidents are caused from people being too sleep? People being in too much of a hurry ? People changing the radio or cd player ? People talking on the phone ? People eating while driving ? People trying to keep an eye on their rowdy kids in the back seat ? People just overall being bad drivers ?

The issue there is bad drivers and we already have laws against driving intoxicated. Demonizing a substance isn’t going to produce less irresponsible drivers. So please lets not get two separate arguments mixed up.

Abe March 5, 2010, 5:15 AM

Alcohol kills, cannabis heals.

Bud Kine March 5, 2010, 1:28 PM

And, don’t forget all the prescription meds that kids get right out of their parents medicine cabinet or nightstand; painkillers, sleeping pills, diet pills, anti-depressants…viagra, for crying out loud! ALL of these drugs have far more potential for danger , such as, dependence, organ/brain damage, overdose or death, than pot ever could. No one has died from smoking or ingesting too much cannabis. There is a HUGE amount of unbiased information regarding the safety and efficacy of cannabis as medicine available on the internet if you will but do the research. I have been researching cannabis for several years by simple Google inquiries, and wereas before I was very opposed to “marijuana” and supported the War on Drugs, I now believe cannabis, at least, should be legal and regulated just like alcohol and tobacco. We are spending many billions every year on just marijuana prohibition. The taxes generated from regulating cannabis and hemp could pour billions of dollars into education and rehabilitation. Do THAT for our children. And another thing, if your son or daughter gets busted with marijuana, God forbid, the penalties that will follow them for the rest of their lives will be much more severe than a mistake as a youth with a joint.

DN March 5, 2010, 7:01 PM

39% compared with 15% for the same age group in the Netherlands, where cannabis is regulated and taxed and can only be purchased in licensed “coffee shops” by adults ofer 18. Regulation is far better at reduction of use than an OPEN BLACK MARKET.

Jane March 6, 2010, 7:26 AM

John: You are so so wrong.

My son became dependent on marijuana before I even realized he was smoking it. I was busy trying to keep him from drinking alcohol and driving too fast, but his marijuana dependence ended up being worse. It has had major negative effects on his motivation, education, life skills, lungs, behavior. Once he was dependent, nothing we tried would make him stop—he just wanted to get high all the time and party with his friends. He stopped playing sports and went to class high and his grades started to drop. We learned he was also selling to other kids to get money to buy pot since we wouldn’t give him money. The only thing left to do was to kick him out of the house, but he ran away from home rather than stop using. He almost didn’t graduate from high school. He got caught and had to enroll in treatment and get drug tested. He had major withdrawal symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, rage, diarrhea. After withdrawal his behavior started to improve and he became a human being again. He is still struggling with cravings for marijuana and it is still affecting his ability to create his future.

My son’s behavior was consistent with several books on the effects of marijuana on teenagers. I’ve looked at numerous studies regarding the effects of pot smoking on teenagers and the majority of them are disturbing, from increased risk of psychosis to depression and anxiety, lung damage, memory loss, difficulty focusing etc.

Not every kid will become dependent, but he’s not the only person affected negatively by pot by far. By the way, the rest of the world saw him as a normal teenager; he was not known as a troublemaker and plenty of others were acting similarly. I don’t see any good side of kids smoking pot in middle school, high school, or college. Don’t think your kid will not be affected by it—take the risk seriously.

Michael M March 6, 2010, 3:42 PM

Here in Texas, alcohol is the number one cause of death for Texas teens. I will tell my daughter the truth about marijuana, that it is far less dangerous than alcohol, and while I will tell them it is not a good idea for developing brains to be exposed to any psychoactive agents, they should choose marijuana over alcohol if they are going to join the other 40% of their peers who drink every month.

Michael M March 6, 2010, 3:47 PM

Remember, the last 3 Presidents where pot smokers when they were younger. Maybe your son is on his way to the Whitehouse.

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