The public attitude toward marijuana has changed within the U.S., with more than half of states legalizing the drug for medicinal or recreational purposes.
But the changing attitudes and loosening of legal barriers raise a question for parents: What should they tell their children about marijuana use and its possible risks?
Parents appear to be less concerned with marijuana use compared to other issues. According to the Yahoo-Marist poll released today, most people are more concerned about their children having sex or smoking cigarettes than smoking marijuana. Experts say the parent-child conversation about marijuana may have to be more nuanced, especially if the parents themselves use marijuana recreationally.
“The issue is that the perceived risk of marijuana is at an all-time low,” says Dr. Merrill Herman, associate professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and an addiction psychiatrist at Montefiore Medical Center.
But he warns that “cannabis can cause people to lose motivation, have a cognitive impact and can affect their psychiatric status.”
Herman brings up the fact that teens who are reluctant to talk to their parents about feelings of depression or anxiety may self-medicate with marijuana, which can delay important treatment and lead to greater problems in the future. He emphasizes that the marijuana available now is much more potent than it was the 1960s and 70s, something that is especially important for parents to remember when reflecting on their own experiences.
Though he says marijuana does not cause people to use other drugs, Herman notes that “most people who use other drugs have also used marijuana.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics has released a few helpful talking points on how marijuana can affect growing teens. The academy also recommends that parents be honest but brief about their drug-use history when discussing marijuana with their children.
The points include:
Dr. Carolyn Certo Gnerre is a third-year psychiatry resident at Montefiore Medical Center in New York and resident in the ABC News Medical Unit.