Although voters in California did not pass Proposition 19 in yesterday’s election, today not much has changed for families. The ongoing debate on the proposed legalization of marijuana has already succeeded in confusing many parents and teens across the nation, while far too many teens continue to use marijuana and mistakenly believe that it is a harmless drug.
Substance use in America has been a bone of political contention for so long that many people can’t see past the dug-in, adversarial positions of opposing sides. But in reality, what all of this translates into is a heavier burden on parents and families. When it comes to marijuana use by their kids, parent education and empowerment still remain an urgent need.
From the vantage point of the millions of parents we serve, it’s already hard enough to keep kids away from alcohol and tobacco, both legal and regulated substances, controlled by powerful industries, and widely abused by kids. The addition of marijuana to the menu of legally available and potentially harmful substances would make it more likely that kids will use it and that much more difficult for parents to prevent use in their families.
While marijuana is not as dangerous as shooting heroin or abusing prescription pain relievers, the majority of teens seeking treatment for a substance abuse problem report marijuana as their primary drug of choice. Specifically, in 63 to 69 percent of treatment admissions for 12 to 17 year olds, marijuana was the primary drug of abuse*.
Marijuana use, like use of other illicit drugs, alcohol and tobacco, is a public health challenge – not least for parents of teenagers, whose developing brains are particularly susceptible to early use of toxic and habit-forming substances. Parents will still worry about the health risks their teens face when they combine mind altering substances, like alcohol or marijuana, with a not yet developed capacity for good judgment and decision making.
Parents need to know all this so they can take care of their kids – so they can be parents. They need to know how to talk effectively with their children up front about the real dangers of drug and alcohol use. They need to know what to do and be able to reach out to other experienced parents when they realize their child is actually using drugs or drinking, is in need of treatment, in recovery and struggling to avoid relapse.
The challenges of parenting haven’t changed. They were here before November 2, and they are here today. the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids exists to help parents along this road, to be their partner at every step of the way as they aim to raise healthy kids.
* Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration