These days, marijuana use among young adults is downright commonplace. According to a 2014 study by the National Institute of Health, 52 percent of all 18 to 25 year olds had tried marijuana at least once, and nearly 20 percent had used marijuana in the past month.
Among high school students, the trends are even more troubling — almost 6 percent of high school students say they smoke marijuana every day, compared with only 2 percent who say they drink alcohol every day.
If you are a parent who smoked marijuana yourself in high school, you may not think it is a big problem for your son or daughter to smoke it, too. But according to David Baron, medical director at Yellowbrick, the marijuana from today is far more potent than the marijuana that was available in the ’60s and ’70s.
Baron says some studies indicate today’s marijuana can contain 8 to 15 times the concentration of THC, one of the chemicals in the plant that can cause psychotic experiences.
“This means that the ‘same’ drug that made most people calm, mellow and a bit silly 40 years ago now causes a much higher percentage of users to experience paranoia, anxiety, or full-blown psychosis, including hallucinations and delusions,” he says. “To paraphrase an old car commercial: ‘This is not your father’s marijuana.’”
Baron also says there are significant risks for young adults who smoke marijuana, noting that one in ten young adults who smoke marijuana will become addicted to it.
Marijuana use is considered a problem when it starts interfering with someone’s everyday life. For example, those who are addicted to marijuana may continue to smoke, despite the fact that it causes problems in school, work, or relationships, or even puts them in danger.
So if you’re a parent of a young adult, how do you know if your son or daughter is abusing marijuana? Here are a few signs that your child may have a problem:
- They are using eye drops
If you find a bottle of eye drops while doing the laundry, you have cause for concern. Healthy young adults don’t often need eye-strain medication; red-eyed marijuana smokers use it to conceal the effects of smoking marijuana.
- You find rolling papers, pipes, a bong, roach clips, etc.
Drug paraphernalia is a pretty good indicator of a problem. Once a person acquires marijuana accessories, you can be sure they’ve passed the initial experimentation stage of use. They are not holding these things for friends, though they may use this as an excuse.
- They start using incense
Incense hides marijuana smells. Incense in the bedroom or a sweet/perfumed smell on clothes can be a warning sign of marijuana use.
- They start buying mouth wash, air fresheners, etc.
Like with incense, if your son or daughter suddenly wants or buys scent masking agents, this could indicate marijuana use.
- They get new friends
A sudden change in friends can mean your son or daughter has slipped deeper into her marijuana use, especially if long-held good friends get discarded for a new group of seemingly less savory friends.
- They keep asking for money
If your son or daughter keeps asking you for more cash, and you can’t really figure out what they’re spending it on, it may be a sign that their marijuana use has gotten more serious. Remember, a marijuana habit can get expensive.
- Their grades drop
If your son is attending school and was previously an A and B student and he suddenly starts getting Cs and Ds or stops attending classes, marijuana can be one of several possible factors.
- They appear stoned
An obvious one, but it’s easy to explain away odd behaviors with wishful thinking. If your daughter seems confused, slow and lethargic, she may be high.
- They don’t seem motivated to accomplish any worthwhile goals
Normal young adults will have interests, passions and desires. These desires may not be academic, and they may not be interests that you approve of, but most young adults have energy and motivation to accomplish something. Marijuana has a strongly negative effect on motivation, so if you notice a lack of drive or passion, it may be another signal that their use has become a problem.
If you notice any of these symptoms in your young adult children, there are ways you can make a difference.
First, start by simply stating to your son or daughter what you have found and wait for a response, rather than starting an argument. If he or she tries to take you off the topic, bring the conversation back to the point.
If your son or daughter is willing to admit they have been smoking marijuana, ask them about why and how. Unless a doctor has been prescribing it in a state where it’s legal—without your knowledge—they’ve been breaking the law to do it. The risks associated with this are also worth talking about.
Be clear about the limits you intend to set, and if consequences are warranted, make them proportionate to the situation.
Keep checking in and ask also about other factors (depression, anxiety, bullying, and academic worries) that may be contributing factors and/or consequences of smoking marijuana.
If your son or daughter persists in smoking, or their behaviors continue to indicate that they do, consider getting them professional help.