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Parent Resources

Relax Mom, It’s Only Pot!

This fact sheet is part of the Teen talk: A survival guide for parents of teenagers series.

kids with coachJodi Dworkin, Extension Specialist and Associate Professor — Department of Family Social Science

Revised 2011. Reviewed May 2017 by author.

Second to alcohol, marijuana is the most commonly used drug among youth in the U.S. While use of most drugs among teens has decreased slightly, marijuana use is still a problem.

Use, Effects, Legality, and Access

Marijuana, also called pot, cannabis, reefer, grass, weed, dope, ganja, mary jane, and sinsemilla, looks like dried parsley with stems and/or seeds. It can be smoked, vaporized, or eaten. Paraphernalia includes rolling papers and pipes. Teens are most likely to smoke pot on the weekends, with friends, and at parties.

Pot increases the heart rate, causes bloodshot eyes, dry mouth and throat, increases the appetite, reduces short term memory, alters one’s sense of time, and reduces one’s concentration, coordination, and motivation.

Even though some states have passed laws legalizing marijuana use, it is still illegal in all states for youth under 21 years. Before legalization, about 40 percent of 8th graders and 70 percent of 10th graders reported pot was fairly easy or very easy to find. In states where it is legal, access for youth may increase.

Your Perception Is Different from Your Teen’s Reality

Many parents are unaware of what their child is doing. Recent studies have shown that what parents think their children do and what their teens actually do can be quite different:

Why Teens Try Pot

Teenagers use substances for the same reasons as adults do: to relieve stress, relax, have fun, because everybody else is doing it, and because being high often feels good. Teens often say, “I would like to try pot just once to see what it is like,” “Everyone tries drugs sometimes,” and “Smoking marijuana is okay sometimes.”

What Can I Do to Help My Teen?

Recognize that your child is being exposed to drugs and talk to them about the risks. Drug use is lower among kids who learn about the risks at home. The number one risk kids associate with drug use is “My parents would feel really bad if they found out I was using drugs.”

Here are tips for talking with your teenager about drugs:

For more ideas and information, see the resources listed below.

‘Just Say No’ Isn't Good Enough!

Telling your teenager to “just say no” isn’t going to be enough to prevent him from trying pot at a party when all his friends are getting high. Practice how to say no in different situations with your teen. Give your teenager options for saying no and let him choose which he feels the most comfortable using.

Here are alternatives to “just say no:”

Remind your teen that it is okay to be at a party and not try pot, even if it seems like everybody else is doing it. For more tips on how to handle unsafe situations, see Keeping Teens Safe: The Village Approach.

How Can I Tell If My Teen Has a Problem?

Here are some warning signs:

If you suspect your teen has a problem with drugs, you can contact your physician, school counselor, an independent drug counselor, or the resources listed below to get help for your teen and your family.


Schaefer, C. E., & DiGeronimo, T. F. (1999). How to talk to teens about really important things: Specific questions and answers and useful things to say. San Francisco: Wiley.

Steinberg, L. (2011). You and your adolescent: The essential guide for ages 10-25. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Related resources

DrugFacts: MarijuanaNational Institute on Drug Abuse — Offers facts about marijuana, including how people use it, its effects on the brain and overall health, and treatment options. English | español

Talking to Your Kids: Communicating the RisksNational Institute on Drug Abuse — Offers parents tips for talking with their children about the drug and its potential harmful effects. English | español

How to Talk about MarijuanaPartnership for Drug-Free Kids — Prepare yourself for what you’re likely to hear and find a few suggestions for how to respond.

Marijuana Anonymous — Find help to recover from marijuana addiction.

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