• Marijuana and Colorado Teens

    Jun 02
    Teen cropped

    Marijuana and Colorado Teens
    Mandy Copeland, LCSW, CAC II, Health Educator, Denver Health

    As a Health Educator in a Denver high school, I see, with increasing frequency the effect legalization of marijuana is having on our teenagers. Teens are using marijuana, synthetic marijuana, edibles, and vaporizers.

    I hear the following reasons for use again and again. “Ms. Mandy, I use because it helps me focus on homework, I use with friends, I use alone to help me sleep, I use because my family does, I use to celebrate, I use because it helps my temper, I use because it helps my ADHD, I use to help my depression/anxiety, I use because it’s natural, I use because compared to other drugs it’s not that bad, I use because I plan to open a dispensary.”

    We now have evidence about what we’ve long suspected. Marijuana harms the developing teen brain.  As adults in the community what can we do?

    -education/prevention messages starting in elementary school
    -public health campaigns targeting kids and adults
    -education/treatment program in schools

    A message to parents:

    -Express very clear expectations for your children about their use.
    -Educate yourself; be informed about the products available in our state that contain marijuana.
    -Don’t share stories of your past drug and alcohol use. Teens can’t process that information and often turn it into a way to legitimize their own use. Today’s marijuana is much stronger than in the past.
    -Don’t assume. I see some teens that use marijuana who are successful students and athletes. I teach that addiction is progressive and they may be maintaining now, but their use will most likely increase and their functioning will decrease.
    -Have open discussions with your teen about positive coping skills to deal with their emotions versus using drugs and alcohol.
    -I hear from many teens that their parents look the other way, condone their use, and even use marijuana with their children. If you choose to keep marijuana in your home, lock it up just as you would alcohol, firearms, prescription medication, and tobacco.
    -If you suspect your teen is using marijuana, put consequences/rewards in place right away.  If you are unsure, buy a testing kit from the drug store.  If your teen suffers from depression, anxiety, or ADHD, let them know that effective treatment, that doesn’t include marijuana, is out there. If your teen is using and can’t stop, get treatment resources at www.drugfree.org and consider attending Al-Anon for free support: www.al-anon-co.org.