Your Kid Smokes Pot - Now What?
By Kenneth N. Woliner, M.D., A.B.F.M. / August, 2011

The call from the teen tour leader surprised you, angered you, and scared you: "Your son was caught smoking marijuana. He's expelled from camp. You have to take him home. Now."

You didn't expect this, but you knew you should have. Children of well-to-do families are more likely to binge drink, smoke weed, and score prescription meds to get high.

We all know that teenagers lack self-control. That, combined with their grandiose personalities (they feel like they know everything), and their impulsive style of problem-solving, leads to sensation-seeking behavior. High levels of screen time (computer and television), especially TV shows such as Entourage, increase craving and desire for drug use. But perhaps the biggest risk factor for your child's drugging was your parental attitude of passive support of drugs. Don't kid yourself. Your child knows where you store your stash.

Teen marijuana use is on the rise. According to the 2010 Monitoring the Future Survey (, one-sixth of eighth graders have used drugs in the last year and one in sixteen twelfth graders smoke pot on a daily basis.

Not your kid? Your child may say, "I don't." But, when checked by hair analysis, we see substantial under-reporting of drug use. The social contagion effect is dramatic. For every ten per cent increase in close friends and classmates who use marijuana, the probability your child will use increases by five per cent. Kids get high with a little help from their friends.

You might think marijuana is the "harmless" drug. It certainly doesn't sound as bad as heroin, cocaine, or Oxycontin. But how safe is it? More teens drive drugged than drunk, and the resulting mental slowness doubles the risk of causing a fatal road accident. Even if your child doesn't smoke, with one in six teens driving under the influence, can you be sure your daughter or son isn't riding with a cannabis-impaired driver?

What is scarier is how marijuana messes with one's head. Adolescence is a critical phase for brain development. Learning and memory are obviously impaired from smoking marijuana. Depression, panic attacks, and suicide attempts all increase with marijuana use. More frightening is that smoking pot as a teenager can cause schizophrenia. Now that's what I call "messed up!"

As much as you would like to beat your kid to a pulp, harsh parenting backed by hypocritical actions (such as smoking pot) is not effective. The first thing to do is to throw away your water-pipe. Better yet, with your child watching, smash it with a bowling ball or drive over it with your car. Rather than being neglectful, provide strong father and mother communication that total abstinence is the rule. Remember, your child doesn't need a buddy. He needs parents.

For the next three months, you'll ensure your son is home during mealtimes, so you can prevent him from going out on evenings to be exposed to marijuana or other drugs from his friends. You'll keep him busy and connected with school, sports, or Sunday school. No cigarettes, alcohol or energy drinks either, as all three increase the risk for relapse.

Stop rewarding bad behavior. So what if you have tickets to that concert? Take someone else. When he shows that he's more responsible, you'll give him more freedom. Until then, keep your son on a short leash.

Editor's note: If you would like to express another opinion about this topic, please send an email to and write in the subject area: "response to Dr. Woliner story."

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