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A Parent’s Guide to Teen Marijuana Use: Navigating Challenges and Seeking Support

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT Meet The Team >

As a leading teen treatment center, we’ve heard from countless parents about their concerns over marijuana legalization. With the drug’s increased accessibility, it’s never been more crucial to understand its impact on adolescents—and its potential to lead to more harmful drugs. We’ve created a guide to help you identify whether your teen may be using marijuana, and whether it’s a problem that warrants treatment. 

The Landscape of Teen Marijuana Use

In the last few years, the legalization of marijuana has blurred the lines for many people, especially adolescents. As marijuana becomes legalized, it tends to become more socially acceptable. However, while marijuana is a plant and not a man-made chemical, it can still be harmful to your teen’s developing brain. As parents, it’s crucial to stay informed about how marijuana could influence your teen. 

Teen Marijuana Use Statistics: How Many Teens Use Marijuana?

Marijuana wax, dabbing, and vaping marijuana are some of the ways a teen’s cannabis use can manifest. The most up-to-date statistics from the CDC state how many teens abuse marijuana:

  • “In 2019, 37% of US high school students reported lifetime use of marijuana and 22% reported use in the past 30 days.”
  • “Past-year vaping of marijuana also remained steady in 2020 following large increases in 2018 and 2019.”
  • “Large percentages of middle and high school students reported past-year marijuana vaping—8% of eighth graders, 19% of 10th graders, and 22% of 12th graders.”

Unfortunately, teen marijuana use after legalization has increased as the age of teens using marijuana has decreased.

The Effects of Marijuana Use in Teenagers

Marijuana use in teens can have various physical, mental, and developmental impacts. Early and heavy use can lead to:

  • cognitive impairments
  • mood changes
  • reduced coordination
  • driving impairment
  • problems at school
  • social problems
  • vomiting from smoking marijuana
  • temporary psychosis and other mental impairments
  • secondhand marijuana smoke from others
  • potential risk for addiction
  • “gateway” to other, heavier drugs

Navigating the Impact of Legalization

Though marijuana can have long-lasting impacts on a teen’s life, legalization has affected teen perceptions around its use. Many teens also see marijuana as harmless because it’s natural, and don’t understand the impact it can have on their developing brain, let alone its social consequences. As parents, it’s important to educate your teen in a way that’s unintrusive. Building a supportive relationship with them can mean the difference between them hearing you and them resisting your guidance. 

Recognizing Signs of Marijuana Use in Teens

First, it can be helpful to determining whether the behavior changes you’re noticing in your teen are related to marijuana use. Keep an eye out for:

  • changes in personality or behavior
  • changes in academic performance
  • changes in social circles
  • red eyes
  • constant hunger
  • unusual lethargy

If you’re seeing these signs in your teen, it may be time to have a conversation with them. 

Protecting Your Teen Against Legalization’s Influence

Teens use marijuana for various reasons, including caving to peer pressure, escaping uncomfortable feelings, or because they find it hard to relax. While marijuana may seem harmless because of its legal status, it’s not. 

Education is key. If you suspect your teen is using marijuana, tell them about the potential risks. It’s important to provide a balanced viewpoint. Marijuana can feel good in the short-term, and using it may not have any immediate consequences. Remind them that early and heavy use can have long-term impacts on their brain, and that relying on a substance for positive feelings can lead to addiction. 

When to Seek Professional Help for Cannabis Use in Teens

If you notice a pattern of use that affects your teen’s life, and they’re not open to having a conversation with you, it may be time to seek professional help. You can also ask your teen if they’re willing to take an at-home drug test. 

Whatever stage you’re at with your teen, Evolve Treatment Center can help. We specialize in drug addiction treatment for teens, and we can be a resource along your journey. If you’re at a crossroads and concerned about your teen’s marijuana use, reach out to us today and we can guide you through next steps. 

Find Guidance and Support for Your Teen at Evolve Treatment

Understanding teen marijuana use after legalization is vital for any parent. At Evolve, we offer a range of services designed to help your family navigate these challenges. Our treatment center utilizes various therapeutic modalities to help your teen get sober and stay sober. 

For more information, feel free to contact us—we can walk you through your insurance coverage, logistics, and long-term solutions for your family. 

Have more questions about your teen’s drug use? Evolve’s Parent Guides are designed to help you and your family identify ways you can help your teen.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I protect my teenager from peer pressure to use marijuana?

Open communication, education on the consequences of marijuana use, and a supportive environment can help your teen stand up against peer pressure. Your teen may also require resources like therapy or treatment in order to overcome their marijuana use. 

What should I do if I suspect my teenager is using marijuana?

Start with a non-confrontational conversation, If your teen is unwilling to talk, consider at-home drug testing as a verification measure. If you’re still at an impasse, reach out to us today to discuss your teen’s treatment options. We’re here to help.

Is occasional marijuana use really harmful for teens?

Occasional marijuana use may not be something to be concerned about, but it mostly depends on the circumstances. Even occasional use can lead to cognitive impairments and addiction, and should be taken seriously.

How long does cannabis use disorder last?

The duration varies depending on the individual and the extent of the disorder. Seeking treatment for your teen can greatly reduce the length of cannabis use disorder and end the cycle of addiction.

What is the best treatment for cannabis use disorder?

If cannabis use disorder has gotten out of control, the next step is rehabilitation at a treatment center. Evolve Treatment Center offers specialized programs to address cannabis use in teens. Reach out to us today to learn more. 

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