A report done by Ireland’s leading drug facility, Aiseiri has found that admissions of young people suffering from cannabis abuse now overtake alcohol abuse admissions at their centres. Showing that cannabis is now becoming the dominant drug among young Irish people.
Cannabis, like any other drug, can be misused and can result in dependency which will have a knock on effect in other areas of a young person’s life. THC, the active drug in cannabis, can have a different reaction in different people’s brains; one person can feel a euphoric high while another can react badly. Like with all drugs, chronic abuse will have a negative effect on a young person’s life and may influence their development into adulthood.
When we are teenagers we face more ‘grown-up’ challenges as we naturally becoming more independent, curious and because of this, likely to experiment without our parents knowledge. How we talk to our teenagers about drugs, alcohol or sex is very important. Issues such as these must be dealt primarily with parents before outside factors such as friends, school, the internet, become more dominant.
The best approach in speaking about cannabis, or any drug, is to have an honest and open discussion with your child and establish trust. As a parent you want for your child to be able to talk to you about concerns (for the most part!) that they are having, and that you are open to any questions no matter how awkward.
Your young teen may or may not already be introduced to the idea of drugs or alcohol but that doesn't mean parents should wait until it becomes an issue. Establish clear expectations you have with what is acceptable (don't be vague) behaviour with your teen and what is inappropriate.
If you don’t know how to approach the subject with your teen begin by listening. Ask your child have they heard about cannabis. This is a great way to hear what he/she knows about the subject and a great platform to start a discussion.
Before you can tell your son or daughter about cannabis abuse, parents must also know the facts about the drug. THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, stimulates the brain in different ways. How a user reacts can depend on internal and external issues like mood, environment, or stress. How you react one day to the drug might be different if you are in a different situation the next. (For more, see drugs.ie downloadable guide)
THC also can be harmful (especially with chronic use) with people who suffer from psychotic disorders, bipolar, depression etc. Be sure your children are aware of your family history if it may put them at risk. Also, cannabis smoked with tobacco also has harmful implications so make sure your children know the facts.
Teens by now may know that cannabis is illegal and possession can mean a criminal offence. If they are worried about this, or feel like they are in trouble, let them know that they can talk to you first. Before the police do!
Demonising cannabis is not likely to convince your teen to abstain from using it, but it may damage your credibility in their eyes. Exaggerating its effects only glamorises cannabis in the eyes of a rebellious youth. Trying to balance the information you give them requires care. As parents we must set boundaries but also keep the lines of communication open.
For more on parenting teens and drugs and alcohol, please see our our dedicated section.