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Marijuana Information for Parents and Caregivers

What should I know about marijuana?

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What is the best thing to tell my kids about marijuana and other drug use?

Tell them that the best choice is to not use any drugs, including alcohol. Let your kids know your expectations and the possible consequences for their choices.

We know that some young people will choose to try drugs. The four messages that we try to emphasize are:

  1. Find out some information about the drug before you choose to use it. For example, where did it come from? What are the risks and side effects? What to do in case of an emergency?
  2. Don't use them with alcohol.
  3. Don't drive if you've used any drug or get into a car with someone who has used a drug, including marijuana.
  4. Stay with friends that know what drug you've taken and how much.

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How can I keep my kids drug free?

Start talking to your kids now. The sooner the better -- it’s never too late.

  • Communicate your values and expectations about drug use.
  • Discuss logical consequences for risky choices.
  • Keep yourself informed about teen drug trends.
  • Get to know your kid's friends.
  • Monitor their activities.
  • Keep them involved in extracurricular and family activities.
  • Role model responsible behaviour by not using alcohol for stress relief, offering guests non-alcoholic drinks and limiting the number of drinks that you drink.
  • Provide ongoing encouragement and praise for good behaviour.

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What should I look for if I suspect my child is using marijuana?

  • Changes in mood
    • Lack of interest in school/activities
    • Uncooperative
    • Withdrawn
    • Anxious
  • Physical changes
    • Change in appetite
    • Red eyes
    • Change in sleep habits
    • Changes in appearance
    • Increased illness
  • Behavioural changes
    • Skips classes, grades drop
    • Needs more money
    • Changes friends
    • Spends more time away from family
    • Disregard for rules, legal problems

Some of these changes are normal signs of growing up. If your instincts are telling you that this is more than “just growing up”, contact your family physician, your local Health Department or the school guidance counsellor.

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If my child comes home drunk or stoned, what should I do?

  • Try to remain calm.
  • Many parents choose to let their child "sleep it off" and talk about it later.
    • Try to find out more information the next day like who they were with, why they used the drug, where they got it from, etc.
    • Follow-up with a discussion about your expectations, consequences, and what the teen can do in the same situation next time.
  • Find out what and how much they have taken from them or a friend.
  • If passed out, semi-conscious, or very difficult to arouse - lay them on their side and seek immediate medical attention by calling 911.
  • Check them frequently during the night for colour, breathing and temperature.
  • Don't be afraid to get outside help if you're unsure about how to handle it. You can talk to your family physician, your local Health Department or the school guidance counsellor.

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Why do you think more youth are using marijuana?

There are a number of reasons why youth today are attracted to marijuana:

  • Almost half (43%) of students surveyed in the Ontario Student Drug Use Survey (2007) said that cannabis would be easy or very easy to get.
  • They also said that the occasional use of marijuana was socially acceptable.
  • The social pressures associated with normal adolescent development, the search for identities, and the need to fit in, can explain some marijuana use of youth.
  • Some youth that are feeling anxious or depressed use marijuana as a coping strategy.
  • Young people are growing up in a world that tolerates more forms of substance use, both medicinal and non-medicinal.
  • The global reach of media has meant that more young people than ever are consuming a popular culture that tolerates or even promotes substance use.

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Do people who use marijuana go on to use other drugs?

  • Not necessarily, but it is more likely that they will use other drugs.
  • People who use harder drugs, used marijuana first.
  • Most marijuana smokers do not smoke harder drugs. But, marijuana users are more likely to use tobacco and alcohol.

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Can you become dependent on marijuana?

  • Yes, marijuana does have an addictive quality.
  • Heavy and/or prolonged use can lead to physical or psychological dependency.
  • Users develop a tolerance to THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol) requiring higher doses more frequently to get the same effect.
  • Chronic users of high doses of THC do have withdrawal symptoms.

Marijuana has been identified as the number one drug that youth seek treatment for in Ontario. (DART, 2002)

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