How To Deal With Underage Cannabis Use
The other day, my 15-year-old nephew sent me a message.
He came clean about using cannabis and said that he’s been self-medicating, behind his parents’ backs, to deal with anxiety and depression. He asked me if he should tell his parents. Given that he’s underage, I was filled with worry for many reasons; primarily the fact that he was clearly getting weed illegally from the black market, and that the poor kid was struggling with such adult emotions at such a young age.
Underage cannabis use isn’t exactly uncommon; I even began experimenting with the stuff when I was barely legal myself. I’m sure there are lots of parents, family members, and even kids out there who can relate to this issue, but as responsible adults, how do we deal with this and what do we tell the children who suffer from anxiety and depression?
First Things First
I think it’s so important to educate our kids on cannabis, most especially how to be a responsible user. Although in life-threatening cases such as seizures, epilepsy, and cancer, cannabis and cannabis products are administered to young children but other than that I agree that there’s a good reason why there’s an age restriction for cannabis use. Individuals below 21 who are caught with cannabis can face a wide range of penalties, ranging from disciplinary actions at school or even prison sentences.
My nephew is in high school, and it just didn’t sit well with my conscience knowing that he was self-medicating with god-knows-what kind of “weed” on top of all the pressures and demands of school work, and puberty. It struck fear in my heart realizing that he could be using some contaminated pot; or even worse, be using synthetic cannabis at some point.
I personally agree with the age restrictions for cannabis (as well as alcohol). Although I’m a regular responsible user, I went through a lot in my younger days and I know first-hand what it’s like to struggle with school work – the brain fog from my cannabis use didn’t help me back then. Now, in my early thirties, I understand the importance of finding balance in life with cannabis and my professional / personal responsibilities and commitments. Not all kids know how to do this year – this is something that comes with age and experience.
I told my nephew that he should be opening up to his parents about his use.
More importantly, I advised him to stop self-medicating and step forward about his anxiety and depression. While by no means do I prefer him to be prescribed drugs to treat his illnesses, speaking to his parents can help pave the way for cognitive therapy and counseling for the meantime, until he’s of legal age to buy cannabis and explore the wonderful world of greens and how it can help him. That would just have to wait.
I also told him that he should stop buying weed from his dealer. I gave him the lecture about contaminated weed, the fact that you just don’t know what you’re getting when you buy from a dealer, and how important it is to get help from his elders to treat his anxiety and depression based on his age and specific needs.
Is The Age Restriction Appropriate?
Since people want cannabis regulated like alcohol, I think this is the primary reason why 21 was considered as the legal age to start consuming it instead of 18. This is despite the fact that you can vote for cannabis legalization at 18, but it still doesn’t mean that you can partake after an election day victory.
I am 100% supportive of the fact that cannabis should be legalized at 21, not 18. Aside from the fact that I just don’t think teens have it in them to handle recreational cannabis use at such a young age and balance it with demanding schoolwork, there have been studies that show that cannabis use may harm the still developing teen brain.
Unlike adults, the teen brain is still going through several developments as the child transitions into an adult. In an NPR article, Krista Lisdahl, director of the brain imaging and neuropsychology lab at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee says that teenagers are making a big mistake when they use cannabis. “It’s the absolute worst time”, she says, since cannabis use may potentially disrupt development. She says that the teen years are the “last golden opportunity to make the brain as healthy and smart as possible.” She also refers to several studies that show how regular cannabis use may change the structure of the teenage brain, especially in areas that are associated with memory and problem solving. If this is one of the potential side effects of cannabis, only considering the fact that abstinence would contribute to the optimum health of a developing teen, then I completely agree.
If you’re a teenager and reading this, you should think twice about your cannabis habit and reconsider getting your weed from an illegal source.
What do parents out there think? I’d love to hear your feedback on this issue.