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Young Teen and Pot Use


Allies Member ejackson writes in asking about her teenaged grandson’s pot use. Where can the family start in addressing their Loved One’s use and its effects on his life?

My grandson is 14 and using pot. Our family is very upset and though he is in therapy his use continues. Can you share some insights as to what we should do. He is failing in school and just doesn't seem to care about anything.

It’s hard to believe, but the majority of people who get in trouble with drugs in life start early, 13-14 years of age. Your grandson is in therapy. Is he engaging with the therapist? I suggest you find out whether he is also struggling with a mood disorder, such as depression. And, if so, whether he may also need specialized treatment for it. Pot has been known to help with depression in little amounts, but can backfire considerably in larger doses.

We provide information specific to teens and substance use on our site in the Resource Supplement.

A very useful approach for teenagers who are using marijuana is Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach or ACRA (this is the parent approach of CRAFT, it represents the CRA in our CRAFT). The main thrust of this approach is for the young person to reduce the marijuana use while finding other “community reinforcements” that compete with use and provide alternative natural highs. These reinforcements could include a sport, a young peoples’ church group, or different forms of exercise. The idea holds true for adults as well, though young people are typically more easily overwhelmed and need extra support to find and engage in these more positive alternatives.

I just googled ACRA in your state and found several places that provide this type of support. It may be worth looking into this approach, perhaps in addition to the therapy. ACRA is time-limited. It is often bundled with aftercare support that helps the young person stay active in the community.

The Learning Modules on this site teach CRAFT, and the principles work equally well for families who have a young person showing signs of struggling with addiction. This was the finding of a well-designed study that looked at parents of adolescents who were taught CRAFT (Waldron, H.B., Kern-Jones, S., Turner, C.W., Peterson, T.R., & Ozechowski T.J. (2007). Engaging resistant adolescents in drug abuse treatment. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 32, 133-42.)

I believe it would be helpful for this young man’s parents and grandparents to watch these videos and try to apply the CRAFT principles in their interactions with him. In the navigation bar across the top of the member site, go to My AiR and under this category go to My Learning Center. Here you will learn how there can be a number of small things the adults in the family can improve upon that will help nudge your grandson towards lowering the using. This part can’t be emphasized enough. Drug use exists within a social milieu. The family is the circle around the Loved One, and how you act and communicate with them makes a real difference.

With adolescents it is very hard to stop the use altogether. You’re better off thinking about this as an effort to lower use.

I’m sure you’re concerned, and you are right to be. Science is clear that pot use during the teen years is detrimental to a young person’s brain development. You may not be able to stop his use entirely, but encouraging other activities that may take the place of pot can help lower his use, and may in time end up meaning more to him than the pot.

Finally, I want to recognize the many grandparents on this site who are totally or partially raising their grandchildren. You are more numerous than ever before in this country due in large part to the opioid epidemic. Grandparents sometimes stand at a distance from their grandchildren. The perspective they have on the teenager is different, perhaps a little clearer; positive reinforcement from a grandparent can be so significant to a grandchild.

Thank you for writing in.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)