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When Your Teen is Smoking Pot

by Mark Gregston

With the world’s view of marijuana changing, and the stigmas surrounding pot declining, parents need to come to grips with the reality that pot is here to stay.  In the United States, eleven states have legalized marijuana for recreational use in adults over the age of 21, while more than 30 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes.  These moves make marijuana more and more permissible, as well as accessible and available to our teens. 

The Popularity of Pot 

A world drug report identifies that between 128-238 million people around the globe use pot as their drug of choice, and cannabis is the world’s most widely produced, trafficked, and consumed drug.  In the United States, Oregon has become the Napa Valley of cannabis, and with all the legalizations, it’s becoming an easy drug that’s finding its way into the hands of our teens.  Recent statistics show 1 in 4 high school seniors smoke marijuana once a month, 1 in 5 use it weekly, and 1 in 10 use pot on a daily basis. 

This drug is no respecter of religion or education, and just as many private school kids turn to marijuana as do their public-school counterparts.  When I ask kids here at Heartlight when they first started smoking pot, the answer is almost always, in middle school.  That’s as young as sixth grade, parents! 

The Deception of Drugs 

Kids are creative and if parents don’t cultivate and provide their teens with an outlet to escape from the craziness of their day-to-day lives, they will find something on their own—and that something just might be marijuana.  Marijuana has been called the “gateway drug” because it’s more attractive than alcohol and cigarettes and easier to get a hold of than other drugs. 

Some teens, as well as adults, believe that because cannabis is a naturally growing plant with lots of good uses, it’s safer to use.  But that couldn’t be further from the truth.  The Cannabis plant has multiple varieties: hemp—the one that has good use and a low THC (the psychoactive component that gets you high) and the other one marijuana, the plant with high THC levels.  You can’t really smoke hemp, though many people try, but with marijuana, that plant can lead your teen down paths they never intended to go down. 

Pot was somewhat mainstream, though illegal, in the sixties, but it wasn’t used as it is today.  So, what are some of the reasons today’s teens are using marijuana?  The number one reason teens smoke pot is to self-medicate—to feel better about themselves and their situations.  Others use it as a means to fit in and feel accepted (peer pressure), and then there are the kids who are depressed who will try anything to get out of feeling that way, and the kids who have ADD. 

Kids with ADD often find themselves being drawn to marijuana because deep down they long to appear “normal,” and so, they believe if they try marijuana, they’ll somehow fit in better.  The bottom line to the majority of today’s drug use is that the teens who are using drugs are trying to find a cure to what ails them, but the dangers of drug use don’t only stop at the damage it can inflict upon the body.  The dangers come from the lying, cheating, dishonesty, and deceitful baggage that makes an appearance.  These “relationship destroyers” are part and parcel of drug use, not because your teen is a born liar or cheater, but because an addicted body needs its next “fix” to function. 

How to Respond 

So, will your teen admit they’re smoking pot or using cannabis products?  Probably not, unless you have a relationship with them that allows for that level of honesty.  The majority of teens will not admit to smoking pot, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t physical and relational tells that give them away.  Loss of motivation and a “don’t care, whatever happens, happens” attitude are two of the big giveaways that something is up with your teen. 

And if you find yourself questioning if your hunches are right when it comes to your teen and drug use, you’re probably wondering how you should respond.  Well, for starters, don’t overreact, but be strong!  Pause to understand what their reason for using drugs might be, and then jump in to get to the bottom of the situation. 

Don’t be angry.  Rise above the situation and don’t take your teen’s drug use personally.  Your child is not the enemy, and keeping that at the forefront of your mind will help you be more effective in your efforts to get your teen the right kind of help. 

Get outside help.  If you can’t help your teen kick the cravings and addictions on your own, seek wise and godly counsel from someone trained to deal with these issues. 

And lastly, remember to connect with your teen on a daily basis.  As Ella, one of our Heartlight residents told us in a recent session, “it’s important for parents to take time out of their day to make sure their teen is okay.  They might not realize it, but the little things are the biggest things.” 


Mom, Dad … many of you might be considering where you went wrong, and what you missed in your teen’s life, causing your teen to struggle as they do.  It’s times like this that it’s important to remember that as culture changes, God does not.  The struggle for many parents is learning new ways of adapting timeless truth into a world that seems to be working against parents and grandparents.  If your teen falls into one of those traps that isn’t exactly what you’d hoped for your child, then the greatest challenge and the most needed truth that your child needs to know is this: while you may not always agree with their behavior, you’ll always love them regardless of their choices—just like God loves us. 

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.