*This post originally appeared on our Member Site blog, where experts respond to members’ questions and concerns. To sign up for our special offer and benefit from the Allies in Recovery eLearning program, click here.
“My 21 year old son has several mental health issues and has decided that pot helps. He says that he loves the way it makes him feel, that he doesn’t have doubts or insecurities when high. He is gay, has been bullied in the past and still feels unfairly treated and blames everyone else for his failures. In the past, he has been high functioning but the pot use zaps all motivation. He wanted to go back to college- he has failed out twice before and we paid for everything. This time we helped him get loans. He now says that he is stressed out with worrying about his grades and paying back the loans, but still sneaks and gets pot.
With no money, we drive him to and from school but his so-called friends give it to him. I’m so sad that he will not get help. He says that he is done with treatment. Don’t know what to do. I can’t keep babysitting him to keep him sober. He is taking a plethora of medication for ocd and anxiety.”
Dominique Simon-Levine suggests that this mother change her approach slightly
Your son has discovered pot and claims it helps him with his mood. You however, see how pot is zapping his motivation and are very worried he will fail out of school. He has several mental health diagnoses for which he is being treated with psychotropic drugs.
It is not clear from what you write whether you think the pot was responsible for the earlier school failures. Marijuana does reduce motivation. It is also very hard to study while high. Thoughts flit around and one is easily distracted.
Regardless of what you read online, studies of marijuana have really been lacking. Whether it helps with anxiety and eases that negative self-talk is open to debate. Anecdotally, there are those that say it does both. Your son may have stumbled onto something that really helps him. Now what?
Regardless of where your son is along the progression of the pot use, you are worried and feel the need to babysit him to keep him from getting high.
The negative consequences of marijuana use are subtle. It’s not like other drugs in which life takes these dramatic falls. It can take years to piece together the negative effects, like a drop in motivation that affects school or relationships or career.
Rather than aiming for a complete break from pot use, what if you partnered with him to limit his use. What if you sat down with him and recognized the positive aspects of the pot, as he has described them. You could then include your fears around the pot, principally how it may affect his school work.
Your son lives at home. We have written several posts in which we describe efforts to limit the pot use by insisting the loved one stay away when high and come home only when sober. The line is drawn between your house and the outside world.
Could he agree to this? Could he find his own way home once he comes down from being high? Would he have to hang around at school? You would be making things a little tougher for him.
You can’t keep him from using pot. Nor can you keep him from doing so while at school with fairweather friends who supply him. The line you have some control over is your home. You already backed out of providing him with tuition.
Remember how to reward…
How could you reward his honoring this “deal”? In the day to day, you could do all the little things we describe in Learning Module 5, available to our members (view an excerpt here): a warm welcome, a smile…. You could also come up with some help with the loans, though it’s hard to meter this out in step with his use/non-use. Remember though, the rewards have to be given and taken away at the same time as the use/non-use….not days later when new information emerges. (read some of our posts on rewards)
Your days of babysitting are over. This won’t work and will serve to drive him underground. He is an adult and needs to come to his own decisions. Step away from him some. Let him feel what it’s like to be more in control.
Other issues need to be addressed
Your son must be seeing a treater for the OCD and anxiety. Providers are needing to incorporate marijuana into their treatment of mental health issues. Can your son be honest with him/her?
I find your situation particularly difficult to address. Your son is in college. You don’t want him to lose this structure and engagement. He is fragile emotionally. He is saying no to treatment but is there something at school or in your community that could be supportive, perhaps a young person’s LGBT/trauma group?
Despite the fact that he says no to treatment now, getting these resources on paper, and providing him the list at the end of the deal-making talk, would be worthwhile.
“I know you are not interested in treatment, but should that change, here are a couple things we found that might help. We’ll do everything we can to help you access any of them.”
Thank you for writing in. Please let us know how things are going.