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Picture of Catharine Hannay, MA

Catharine Hannay, MA

Catharine Hannay is the founder of MindfulTeachers.org and the author of Being You: A Girl’s Guide to Mindfulness, a workbook for teen girls on mindfulness, compassion, and self-acceptance.

3 Things Every Parent Should Know About Teen Marijuana Use

Are you concerned that your teen is using, or could start using, marijuana?

Here’s a brief overview of:

1) how marijuana can impact adolescents; 

2) how to figure out if your kid may be smoking (or eating) cannabis, and 

3) how to talk effectively with teens about drug use.


  1. What are the Dangers of Teen Marijuana Use?

The possible consequences of long-term cannabis use include:

  • lack of motivation, which can lead to lower achievement and lower income throughout adulthood;
  • respiratory problems (similar to cigarette smokers), including chronic cough and increased risk of lung infections and even cancer;
  • permanent changes to the developing adolescent brain; and
  • possible addiction—the younger a kid starts using marijuana, the more likely they are to become addicted.

Marijuana use has also been linked to an increase in car accidents because of slowed reaction times (similar to drunk driving).


  1. What Are the Warning Signs of Teen Marijuana Use?

Signs that your kid could be smoking marijuana include:

  • “dry mouth
  • red or bloodshot eyes
  • pungent smell on clothing, skin or hair,
  • short-term memory gaps, 
  • excessive giggling,
  • hunger (munchies) or thirst,
  • impaired reaction time,
  • frequent use of eye drops, 
  • owning paraphernalia, such as pipes and rolling papers, and 
  • burning incense or using other deodorizers to cover the smell.”

(Joseph Califano, How to Raise a Drug-Free Kid, p. 248)

Also be on the lookout for ‘edibles,’ which are treats like candy and ice cream that contain THC (the component of cannabis that makes people feel ‘high’).

Warning to Parents of Young Children: If you or your teen has any edibles in the house, it’s very important to keep them away from younger kids. (See: “Edibles and Children: Poison Center Calls Rise” and “What if a Kid Eats an Edible? Learn the Signs and What to Do.”)


  1. How Do I Talk to My Teen About Marijuana?

Dr. Sam Himelstein is the co-founder of Family Spring and the director of the Center for Adolescent Studies. After working with hundreds of adolescents, he says:  

“It tends not to be effective to simply tell kids, ‘Don’t do drugs. They’re bad. If you do drugs, you’re bad.’”

Instead, he suggests trying to find out not just if they’re using marijuana or other drugs, but why. Teens usually don’t do drugs just to be rebellious or annoy their parents. They could be under a lot of pressure from peers, or they could be self-medicating for depression, anxiety, or PTSD.



Adolescents will be much more likely to listen to you if you understand their reasons for using (or potentially using) marijuana, and if you help them learn accurate information rather than making exaggerated claims. 

I hope the above suggestions help you talk effectively with your teen about cannabis use. If you’re looking for more detailed information, I have a longer post at the Center for Adolescent Studies on  “How to Talk About Marijuana so Teens Will Listen.” 

If you’re located in California and need help determining if your child and/or family need professional help, contact Family Spring by submitting an inquiry at this link.


Related Posts

How Are Drugs Impacting My Teen’s Mind and Body?

3 Tips for Talking to Teens Who Use Drugs

Treatment Options for Teen Drug Addiction

What Do I Say When My Kids Ask if I’ve Ever Used Drugs or Alcohol? 

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