Parents have been worrying about their teens smoking pot for years. However, parents of teens today have increased reason to be concerned – the decriminalization or even legalization of marijuana in many areas has made pot easier to acquire for many teenagers. It’s also available in more forms than it used to be. Your teen could be using cannabis products without actually smoking at all. You’re not necessarily looking for a baggie full of green flakes or sniffing for that distinctive odor – pot could look like a lollipop or a bag of gummy bears. It could come in the form of liquid meant to be used in a vape pen. It could look like a lump of wax. It can come in pill, spray, or even lotion form. So how is a parent supposed to know if their teen is using?
Take a look at these five signs that your teen might be smoking pot or using other marijuana products.
1. The Smell
Sure, teens can use cannabis without the pot smoke smell these days, but smoking remains one of the more popular ways to ingest marijuana, especially for teenagers. Your teen shouldn’t be able to walk into a dispensary and choose from the array of edibles, oils, and other formulations. That means they’re largely dependent on what they can get outside of legal means, even in states where marijuana is legal for adults, and that often means plain old smokable pot.
So even though the absence of a smell isn’t necessarily exculpatory, you can still be on the alert for the presence of a marijuana smell. Pot has a strong smell and it clings to clothes, hair, and skin. Teens may try to cover up the scent, but it remains pretty recognizable. If you’ve ever smelled it before, you’ll know it if you smell it on your teen. Increased use of other scents like air freshener, incense, or body spray could be a sign of pot use as well.
2. The Eyes
Reddened eyes are another big sign that your teen is smoking pot – and unlike the smell, this symptom of marijuana use also occurs when users ingest edibles, vape, or consume pot in other forms. This is because it’s not the smoke that causes the red eyes, it’s the THC. THC lowers blood pressure, which causes blood vessels and capillaries to dilate, including blood vessels and capillaries in the eyes. This causes increased blood flow to the eyes, resulting in redness. How much redness you can see depends largely on how much THC is in the marijuana, so a strain with low THC might not cause noticeable redness, but a strain with high THC could cause very obvious redness.
You can also keep your eyes open for bottles of eye drops. Marijuana users know that they often develop red eyes after smoking or consuming pot, and those who want to hide it often turn to eye drops in order to relieve the redness. Of course, there are other reasons why someone may need eye drops, but outside of extenuating circumstances like wearing contacts or swimming in chlorinated pools frequently, healthy teens without eye problems rarely need them. Unexplained eye drops are a very good tell that your teen might be smoking pot.
3. The Grades
Has your formerly straight-A child started bringing home Cs? Has your C and B student started sliding into Ds and Fs? A change in your teen’s school performance could be caused by many things, but one thing that is often true is that a sudden drop-off in a child’s grades is a sign that something isn’t right. Marijuana use can drain your teen’s motivation to succeed in school.
Although grades are a common indicator of trouble in school, they aren’t the only one. Teens who are using marijuana might also give up on extracurricular activities, stop participating in class, and even start skipping school. For example, parents of teens who use pot might be notified of unexplained absences or get called in for a conference over their teen’s lack of participation in class. They might notice that their teen suddenly doesn’t belong to the softball team anymore or doesn’t need to stay after school to work on the yearbook anymore. All of these changes could be red flags for pot use.
4. The Friends
Generally, teens don’t decide all on their own to go seek out marijuana. It’s usually introduced to them by a peer. Although peer pressure doesn’t necessarily resemble the scenarios you see in after-school specials, it can’t be denied that peers have a profound impact on the choices teens make. If your teen’s best friends from middle school start smoking pot in high school, your teen may feel compelled to try it as well, in order to maintain their connection. Or, if your teen finds themselves drifting apart from old friends and finds new friends who smoke pot, they may feel pressured to try it to prove themselves to their new crowd.
Either way, it’s a good idea to pay attention to who your children are spending time with. If your teen seems to be running with an entirely new group of friends, that could be a warning sign. If your teen stops bringing friends home entirely, that may also be a red flag – it could mean that they know you won’t approve of the people they’re spending time with.
5. The Evidence
One sign that’s hard to explain away is the presence of hard evidence in your teen’s possession. If you run across a baggie of pot in your teen’s dresser while you’re putting away laundry or a vape pen in their purse when you’re looking for an ink pen, these are pretty clear signs that your teen is using pot regularly enough to have their own stash or supplies.
What Can You Do If Your Teen Is Smoking Pot?
No matter what signs your teen is displaying, it’s important to talk to them and hear out their side of the story. Sometimes there really is an innocuous explanation – a teen who smells like pot once may not have been smoking it themselves but may have been in close proximity to someone else who was smoking, for example. In that scenario, it’s possible that your teen should be congratulated for resisting peer pressure rather than punished. However, if it’s a regular occurrence, or if it’s combined with other signs that your teen is using marijuana, you may want to follow up with a drug test or other confirmation. If your teen is using pot regularly and it’s interfering with their daily life, a counselor or therapist can help your teen get to the root of their behavior and get them back on the right path.
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