Teens use marijuana more than any other illicit substance. Its use comes in second only to alcohol when it comes to underage substance abuse. So if you think your teen might be smoking pot, you just might be right. There are some physical and behavioral signs that are specific to marijuana that you can look for, but a good general rule is to talk to your teen if you suspect he is using drugs. Never be afraid to bring up these difficult topics. Doing so could save your teen’s life.
What Marijuana Does to Your Teen
Marijuana is a natural product and is essentially just the dried seeds and leaves from the cannabis plant. There are several chemical compounds in cannabis, called cannabinoids, that produce mind-altering effects, but the main one is THC. When someone smokes pot, THC gets into the bloodstream and then the brain and other organs in the body. It acts on receptors in the brain that normally respond to chemicals with a structure similar to THC. The action of THC in the brain leads to the high that most people smoking pot are seeking. The user will start to feel euphoric within an hour or less of smoking, but he will also experience other sensations. THC causes users to feel a distorted sense of time, to experience altered senses (such as seeing colors differently), to go through mood changes, lose coordination, have trouble thinking clearly and have trouble remembering things. Some people will feel paranoid or experience hallucinations and delusions.
How Being High Looks to You
There are certain physical signs you can look for in your teen to determine if he has been getting high. If he has been smoking pot, he will likely have an insatiable hunger. He will eat constantly for a period of time. He will be confused and uncoordinated and may laugh a lot and find everything funny. He may experience dry mouth and drink more water than usual. One especially telltale sign of smoking pot is red eyes. Also look for eye drops, which experienced smokers use.
There are many signs that can give away a teen when he or she is high, but there are also things you should watch for that indicate your teen may be using drugs regularly. These are typically behavioral changes, and whenever you seen troubling alterations in your teen’s behavior, you should be suspicious. Here are some classic signs of teen drug use:
- A change in the friends with whom he spends the most time.
- Dropping grades or poor attendance at school.
- Behavioral issues in school as noted by teachers.
- Loss of interest in activities, such as sports or clubs.
- Mood swings and signs of mood disorders, like depression or anxiety.
- Being secretive, hiding things or stealing money.
- Lethargic and unmotivated.
- Unexplained changes in personality or attitude.
Sometimes the usual teenage behaviors can be hard to distinguish from behavioral changes caused by drug use. The bottom line is that if you find your teen’s behavior troubling, you should investigate and intervene. If you think your child is smoking pot, talk to him. If he denies it but you continue to see signs, tell him you want to take him to see a doctor. That could motivate him to confess. Be kind and patient, but also be firm. Your teen may want to hide drug use from you, but it is your job to take charge of the situation and teach him that it is harmful to use any kind of drug, even marijuana.