Imagine a medication that is natural, widely available, and reportedly has a multitude of positive effects. Everyone says it will reduce anxiety, improve your appetite, stop nausea and even prevent seizures. That sounds wonderful, right?

Then, imagine learning the same all-natural drug everyone says is wonderful, has significant side effects.

It turns out this drug increases anxiety, reduces motivation and negatively impacts IQ. The drug can contribute to violent behaviour, hallucinations, and fatal accidents. Finally, the drug’s users can consistently experience intense abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. 

If you can imagine both scenarios, you have a little glimpse into the experiences of marijuana. But even then you still might need a parent’s guide to marijuana and marijuana use.

Why is there a need for a parent’s guide to marijuana?

Over the decades, marijuana use has gone from being a drug that was publicly disapproved and criminally condemned to a substance increasingly accepted both socially and legally. As an emergency physician working in the ER, I see many patients who regularly use marijuana, and some of them come to me with complications they don’t associate with the drug.

To illustrate, some time ago I asked an ER patient, “How often do you smoke?” His response: “Not much, maybe five times a day.” In his world, that wasn’t much. When discussing side effects with another patient in his 30s, he told me, “I’ve been smoking weed since I was nine years old, and it is NOT the problem!”

In other words, the patients I see often look to other reasons for their troubles before addressing their marijuana use.

Many of us grew up in social and religious environments believing that anyone who used drugs was simply evil. And this black and white view of the morality of drug use is sometimes the easier and more comfortable conclusion.

But the compassionate truth we need to offer a hurting world is that people often seek out drugs because of a variety of problems.

People could be combating stress, anxiety and prior physical, emotional or sexual trauma. In an era of broken homes and relationships, it’s easy to see why an “acceptable” drug like marijuana would be attractive.

Obviously, there are those who experiment and enjoy the drug. But I suspect more users than we realize, especially younger users, desire an escape. The allure of a drug that will mitigate anxiety or mask inner pain is extremely powerful.  

Unfortunately, while it may numb anxiety, marijuana reduces motivation, among other negative impacts.

But why does this matter?

Effects of marijuana use

For everyone, healthy living includes purpose, goals and socialization. Each of these habits can help reduce anxiety. Those struggling with mental health issues believe marijuana will help, or at least can’t hurt, their problem. Sometimes, medical professionals even say that it will help anxiety or depression.

Unfortunately, prolonged marijuana use not only contributes to anxiety, but also connects with several troubling developments, such as:  

  • Significant psychosis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Aggressive or violent behaviour
  • Delusions and hallucinations
  • Pregnancy issues

Frequently, marijuana use is described as a kind of “self-medication.” It’s no secret seeking help from a psychiatrist when battling mental ailments can be difficult.

However, marijuana use is not the answer.

Contrary to popular belief, marijuana is addictive to some users, and increasingly so the longer they use it. Here are a variety of negative results that can stem from frequent and prolonged marijuana use.

  • Permanent loss of cognitive function.
  • Slower reaction times and processing ability, which can result in devastating accidents.
  • Negative effects on the neurological development of the fetus when mothers use the drug.

A parent’s guide to marijuana’s growing influence

While news reports and advocacy groups cite marijuana’s benefits, what I see within my profession are negative outcomes caused by attaching false hope to a substance. And it often comes at a great cost. We can’t delude ourselves. Marijuana is grown and sold for profit, not for the long-term benefit of consumers.

Marijuana’s prevalence extends to the checkout aisle of every local grocery store and pharmacy, where CBD products are sold for pain control, nausea, anxiety, heart health, acne and a host of other problems. It’s even available for pets!

And yet, there isn’t much research so far that CBD has any significant benefit. Will we find that it does?  Maybe. We just aren’t there yet. Nevertheless, CBD shops pop up everywhere, reinforcing the deception that marijuana itself is a harmless, legitimate medication.

Above all else, the truth matters. And it is well documented that marijuana use produces a fair amount of suffering. This does not stop at medical suffering. In fact, marijuana use can connect to social suffering in terms of functional impairment, joblessness and even crime records for DUI.

Furthermore, within younger populations, we must consider both immediate and long-term effects. Without an honest discussion of this drug, we will watch numbers of young men and women live intellectually and socially impaired lives.

Strategies for parents and their approach to marijuana

Through my profession and faith, I desire to see individuals stop their drug and substance abuse for a few reasons. I hope that they can be healthy. That they can thrive. Ultimately, so that they can be the person God made them to be. And free from confusion, suffering and dysfunction brought on by drug use and abuse.

These are stressful times for children. Television, movies and youth culture increasingly normalizes drug use. Specifically, marijuana use can become a difficult topic for your child to discuss while at school or with friends. Explore the following tips in our parent’s guide to marijuana for approaching conversations with your kids.

Talk
Talk to your children about substance issues such as marijuana. And allow them to talk about it. More importantly, have regular discussions about potential stressors. Young people face enormous pressure to fit in with others. Through peer pressure, drug use can unfortunately slide into these spaces.

Create environments to develop healthy conversations surrounding marijuana use and substance abuse. Point your children to Scripture for guidance on how to approach situations involving marijuana and substance use. Read through passages such as 1 Peter 5:8 and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. Discuss why the Lord cares about our bodies, minds and spirits.

Research
Make sure you do your research! Consult credible scientific resources when discussing topics such as marijuana use with your kids. They want more than “this is bad because I told you so.” They deserve our honesty and diligence.

Through Scripture, we see multiple moments where God and the Apostles advise us to remain watchful. Colossians 4:2 says, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 continues this line of thought in saying, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith . . . Let all that you do be done in love.” Remember to communicate love and care to your kids in these conversations rather than enforcing rules without compassion and open discussion.

Observe
You know your children. But sometimes we can miss things as parents. Read through this list of behaviours that might be clues about something going on under the surface. While not all of these indicate that your child is using drugs, they are sometimes symptoms of potential drug use.

  • If their behaviour is off or if they are increasingly secretive.
  • Your child’s thinking seems clouded or confused.
  • A decrease in social interactions.
  • A dip in your child’s grades or academic performance.
  • A significant alteration of sleep schedule.
  • Unexplained abdominal pain or excessive vomiting.
  • Increased anxiety or withdrawal.

Model
Open communication with your children about how they handle the stresses of life is critical. And so is talking about the dangers of marijuana. But if your kids detect anything in your life that smells like hypocrisy, they will tune you out.

To a young person, hypocrisy doesn’t necessarily mean that they must see you using marijuana yourself. For example, some Christians consume alcohol without concerns of conscience. But if children see their parents misusing or abusing alcohol, they can easily shrug off messages about marijuana (or other substances).

“Do as I say, not as I do” has never worked. Ever. Let your children see you model how they should live. That doesn’t mean you have to have a spotless past. Or that if you made mistakes with marijuana yourself in your younger days, you should pretend they never happened. It’s what you’re doing today that counts most.

Finally, consider the possibility that your children may be facing difficult circumstances. Don’t confront your child in anger with a list of “Thou Shall Nots” and a negative tone. Rather, carefully approach them with love and patience if you suspect potential drug use.

Focus on communicating that Scripture presents us with choices for our lives. Marijuana use concerns questions of control and influence. Together, your family can explore questions and conversations about what is best for everyone’s health, future and relationship with the Lord.

Remember, if signs of mental health issues or suspected drug use are arising, always seek professional help from a psychiatrist. Focus on the Family offers a variety of resources, alongside our parent’s guide to marijuana, to help both you and your children.

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Dr. Edwin Leap is a board-certified emergency physician who lives and practices in rural South Carolina. He is also a columnist and blogger. Dr. Leap serves on the Physicians Resource Council of Focus on the Family.

© 2021 Focus on the Family and Dr. Edwin Leap. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published at FocusOnTheFamily.com.

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