Marijuana Use Is on the Rise Amongst Adolescents
Just last night, “Hunter” texted me before youth group: Don’t mention I said anything but…..can u speak on why it’s a sin to smoke (weed). Then, DURING youth group, another kid reported that “Tony,” one of our sophomores, had been arrested that afternoon for selling pot at school.
I know what my youth pastor will be talking about next Wednesday night….
It seems like I just wrote about kids’ risky behaviors with controlled substances, but evidently, kids aren’t immune to the constant presence of marijuana…especially with the renewed emphasis the drug is receiving from those who want it legalized for recreational use (even though there are plenty of experts who think that widespread legalization of marijuana will lead to even more teens using the drug).
This chart shows the ups and downs of marijuana use over the last 20+ years, but overall, the number of young people who are using and abusing pot is rising. For example, in 2011, according to a report by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1-in-8 8th graders, 1-in-4 10th graders, and 1-in-3 12th graders had used marijuana in the past year. But The National Institute on Drug Abuse captured the attention of many Americans when they reported (in December of 2013) that 60% of high school seniors do not view regular marijuana use as harmful. Consequently, 6.5% of seniors smoke weed on a daily basis! The same report also found that:
- 23% of seniors smoked marijuana in the month prior to the survey, while 36% smoked it during the past year.
- 4% of sophomores use pot daily, with 18% claiming use in the past month and 29.8% in the past year.
While most of those numbers aren’t radical increases, they do represent a cause for concern by parents, doctors, legislatures, and youth workers. In spite of President Obama’s recent nonchalance on the effects of marijuana use, neurologists worry that marijuana use by teens negatively impacts their constantly-developing brains. (I’m fighting off the urge to include a pun about “no-brainers” here.)
Dr. Krista Lisdahl, from the University of Wisconsin, says that adolescence is the “absolute worst time,” to use marijuana, and cites plenty of studies to support her concerns. Decreases in memory, shrinking problem-solving abilities, a loss of IQ, lower grades, and other problems can be attributed to marijuana use during the teen years.
Clearing the Air
The problem is turning heads (again), causing many to look for the guilty party. Do we blame the increase in teens’ marijuana use on music? Social media? Energy drinks? The list of possible culprits could be a long one. I suggest we focus on finding a solution rather than a scapegoat on which to place blame. Here are a few ideas for clearing the air with our kids when it comes to marijuana use.
- Be honest about any marijuana use in your past. You don’t have to recount every single failure from your younger years, nor do you have to get up on a repetitive soap box, but it will help to maintain a consistent message about regrets associated with any previous marijuana use. Lots of parents say things like “I wish I’d never bought that car,” or “If I only knew how those friends were going to influence me,” or “I should have taken better care of my finances,” etc. Just make sure your kids know that you consider any use from your past a mistake. Your vulnerability will breed theirs, and that will really get the conversation going. By the way, here are some interesting talking points that answer questions parents may face from their kids on the subject.
- Outline the dangers of marijuana use. No, you don’t have to scour the Internet searching for the most gruesome pictures of car accidents that happened as a result of teen marijuana use, just have rational conversations that touch on the consequences of drug use. If you use “what if?” scenarios, don’t just focus on the “lifeless-body-in-a-ditch” images. Ask questions to make them think about everyday problems such as developmental hindrances, legal issues, the formation of bad habits, and so on. Give them “real world” realities that make them think about their actions.
- Put marijuana use under the illumination of God’s Word. Granted, marijuana use isn’t specifically mentioned in the Bible. (“Getting stoned” 2,000 years ago was something completely different!) But there are plenty of passages in God’s Word that talk about responsible, godly decisions, and avoiding unnecessary dangers. There are also plenty of passages that talk about the wise use of money, as opposed to the waste of drugs. There are also plenty of references to obeying the laws of the land. In short, though the Bible doesn’t mention marijuana outright, it still has a lot to say about it.
Marijuana will never go away. Just because today’s kids have plenty of alternatives for getting high – aerosols, prescription meds, etc. – doesn’t mean they’ll abandon the “tried and true” drug that has captivated millions of people in the last few generations. So, do everything within your power to make sure Mary Jane isn’t popular with your teenager.
David R. Smith is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year, Ministry By Teenagers. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org. David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.