(650) 596-0807







Marijuana and Your Teen


by Helen Selenati

Marijuana is the illegal drug most often used in the US.  Research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse has shown that since 1991, marijuana use has doubled among 8th- and 10th-grade students, and increased by a third among high school seniors. Accompanying this upward pattern of use, is a significant erosion in antidrug perception and knowledge among young people today. 

These changes in perception and knowledge may be due to a decrease in antidrug messages in the media, an increase in pro-drug messages through the pop culture, and a lack of awareness among parents about the resurgence in drug use.

Because parents of this generation of teenagers experimented with marijuana when they were in college, they often find it difficult to talk about marijuana use with their children and to set strict ground rules against drug use. But marijuana use starts at a younger age today – and more potent forms of the drug are available to these young children.  Parents need to recognize that marijuana use is a serious threat and they need to tell their children not to use it.

While it is best to talk about drugs when children are young, it is never too late to talk to you teen about the danger of drug use.  A pro-active parent sums it up this way: “The only way to prevent your child from using drugs is to be open, talk to them, be aware of everything going on in your child’s life….If there is experimentation, I’m going to know and be able to respond.”

Talking to our children about drug abuse is not always easy, but it is one of the most important and effective deterrents of teen drug addiction. There are stronger forms of marijuana available to adolescents today than in the 1960s. Stronger marijuana means stronger effects.

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana is a green, brown or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds and flowers of the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa). Today Marijuana is the most often used illegal drug in the US.

Canabis is the term that refers to marijuana and other drugs made from the same plant. Strong forms of cannabis include sinsemilla (made from just the buds and flowering tops of the female plant), hashish (the sticky resin from the female plant’s flowers), and hash oil (a tar-like liquid distilled from hashish). All forms of cannabis are mind-altering drugs.

What are the current slang term for marijuana?

Slang terms for drugs change quickly, and they vary from one part of the country to another, even across sections of a large city. Terms from years ago, such as pot, herb, grass, weed, Mary Jane, and reefer, are still used. You might also hear the names Aunt Mary, skunk, boom, gangster, kif or ganja. A recent book of American slang lists more than 200 terms for various kinds of marijuana.

How is marijuana used?

Most users roll loose marijuana into a cigarette (called a joint or a nail) or smoke it in a pipe. One well-known type of water pipe is the bong.  Some users mix marijuana with food or use it to brew a tea.  Another method is to slice open a cigar and replace the tobacco with marijuana, making what’s called a blunt. 

Lately marijuana cigarettes or blunts often include crack cocaine, a combination known by various street names such as “primos” or “woolies”. Joints and blunts often are dipped in PCP and are called “happy sticks”. “wicky sticks”. “love boat”, or “tical”.

At what age do children generally start?


Recent government research reports:

  • Among teens 12 to 17, the average age of first trying marijuana was 14 years.
  • 23% of 8th graders have tried marijuana at least once and by 10th grade, 21% are “current” users (used within the past month).
  • Among 12th graders nearly 50% have tried marijuana/hash at least once, and about 24% were current users.

Other researchers have found that the use of marijuana and other drugs usually peaks in the late teens and early twenties, then declines in later years.

How can I tell if my child has been using marijuana?

There are some signs you might be able to see if someone is under the influence of marijuana. He or she might:

  • Seem dizzy or have trouble walking;
  • Seem silly and giggly for no reason;
  • Have very red, bloodshot eyes; and
  • Have a hard time remembering things that just happened.
  • When the early effects fade, the user can become very sleepy.

Parents should be aware of changes in their child’s behavior; look for withdrawal, depression, fatigue, carelessness with grooming, hostility, deteriorating relationships with family members and friends.  In addition changes in academic performance, increased absenteeism, lost interest in sports, or other favorite activities, and changes in sleeping habits could all be related to drug use.

Tips for parents

  • Be a good listener and maintain an open dialogue with your teen.

  • Give clear no-use messages about drugs and alcohol.

  • Monitor your child’s whereabouts and supervise teen activities.

  • Get to know your child’s friends and their parents.

Helen Selenati is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Certified Coach. She has a private practice in Redwood City and can be reached at helen@selenati.com or by calling 650-596-0807. Also visit www.selenati.com



Copyright © 2004 - 2017 Helen Selenati