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Talking to your child or teen about cannabis can be challenging, but talking openly with your child, letting them know they can talk to you about cannabis, and being non-judgmental will go a long way.
Youth and young adults under the age of 25 who use cannabis are at higher risk of harmful effects on brain development and function that may become permanent. This is because the brain continues to develop until the age of 25, and the THC in cannabis affects the parts of the brain that direct brain development.
Young people who use cannabis are at higher risk of:
- mental illness (depression, anxiety, schizophrenia or other psychosis),
- addiction to cannabis (Cannabis Use Disorder),
- problems with memory, thinking, learning, problem-solving skills,
- behavioural issues,
- difficulties with relationships at home, school or work, and
- lung and respiratory problems from smoking cannabis.
Young people who use cannabis may also use it with other substances such as alcohol, which intensifies the effects and can lead to more health risks and worsening judgment leading to reckless behavior (such as driving while impaired, having unprotected sex, or other risk-taking behaviors).
For more information: Cannabis: What Parents/Guardians and Caregivers Need to Know
Teens have given the following reasons for why they have used cannabis:
- it’s acceptable in friend and family circles,
- to fit in with friends or family,
- because it’s available and accessible to them,
- the perception that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol and other substances, and
- to cope with stress.
Talking with your child about drugs and alcohol can be tough, but there are ways to engage your teen that promote open and positive communication. Overall, talking with your child openly and regularly, and being actively involved in their life is most important.
Setting the stage for a conversation with your teen about substance use:
- Keep an open mind (try not to judge or condemn).
- Put yourself in your teen’s shoes to understand how they feel.
- Be clear about your goals for the conversation.
- Be calm and relaxed.
- Be positive.
- Don’t lecture or shame.
- Find a comfortable setting.
- Be aware of body language (avoid finger-pointing or crossing your arms).
Tips on how to answer common cannabis questions from teens: Cannabis Talk Kit - Drug Free Kids Canada
Signs that your child may have a substance use problem:
- ignoring responsibilities at work, school, or home,
- giving up activities that they used to find important or enjoyable,
- changes in mood (e.g., feeling irritable and paranoid),
- changing friends,
- having difficulties with family members,
- being secretive or dishonest,
- changing sleep habits, appetite, or other behaviors, or
- borrowing money, stealing money, or having more money than usual.
It may be hard to detect a cannabis use problem because some signs can look like typical youth behaviour. It’s best to talk to your child and find out if there’s a problem.
Tips on how to talk to your teen about cannabis: Cannabis Talk Kit - Drug Free Kids Canada
For more help, see Get Help With Drug, Alcohol & Other Addicitons