Wed | Dec 19, 2018

Weed Ed | So, your teenager is smoking weed …Here’s what you should do

Published:Monday | November 19, 2018 | 12:16 AMLeVaughn Flynn
Abel

The revelation that your teenage child is smoking ganja is an unsettling moment for most parents. In many cases, the child has been smoking for far longer than the parent would imagine.

Teenage ganja use is a worrisome topic for educators, parents and health officials.

Ganja has been shown to have negative effects on a developing brain by interfering with cognitive abilities such as thinking, memory and learning.

A 2016 research commissioned by the National Council on Drug Abuse among secondary school students highlighted that the introductory age to ganja is between 12 and 15 years old. One in every five students admitted to having used ganja in some form at least once. With the human brain developing up until the mid 20s, those statistics highlight the importance of a robust public education campaign in Jamaica’s new medical ganja industry.

The teens surveyed said they used ganja for stress relief and relaxation and that peer influence also led to first time usage.

Professor Wendel Abel is a consultant psychiatrist with a vast understanding of ganja’s social impact. He says a noticeable distinction among teens who use ganja and those who abstain, is the relationship with their parents and other figures of authority.

“Children who tend not to smoke will report that having a good relationship with their teachers and parents are protective factors against using ganja,” said Abel.

Among those who smoke, parents normally compound the matter by taking the wrong approach to address the situation. While the moment can be emotional, Abel said parents must be pragmatic in their response to achieve any meaningful outcome. Here are his top five recommendations if you’ve recently discovered, or suspect, ganja use by your teen.

 

  1. Parents must become very good listeners when confronting their child on ganja use. They have to develop a relationship that promotes the free flow of information and encourages the child to express his or her feelings.
  2. Avoid fear and scare tactics. Research shows they’re not effective. Also avoid excessive preaching and teaching. According to Abel, a better option is showing them how their behaviour will prevent them from reaching their goals. “If you show how these things can impact their school, personal and career goals - that is more effective.”
  3. Never ask ‘why’ questions; they are very judgemental. Instead broach the subject in a way that empowers the child. Giving an example, Abel said parents can try this approach: “I suspect you are using ganja and I’m very concerned and I want to understand your reasons for using.” Abel added that this approach will normally point to underlying social or psychological issues.
  4. Once the parent has identified the underlying problem, they should explore options to address it. Along with a more authentic form of communication, Abel said the child can be directed to invest his or her energy in a hobby, a sport, or interacting with nature.
  5. Seek professional help. Do not constantly harass the child. It is important to get help from trained professionals such as a counsellor or psychologist.

 

Numerous researches have shown that teenage ganja users are poor performers in high school. These teens are also at risk of psychosis if there is a history of mental illness in the family, as the psychoactive substance in the plant triggers a chemical imbalance that developing brains process differently than a fully developed brain.

 

Abel is also adamant that there is a need for the ganja regulatory body to standardise testing and labelling for the retail outlets licensed to sell ganja flower and ganja oil.

“We don’t have the proper measures in place to ensure the products are standardised. With the decriminalisation (of ganja) we have to protect public health and public safety and protect our young people,” said Abel.