Many youth who use marijuana regularly will develop an addiction to marijuana. But how do you know when this is happening? How do you know when your teen is addicted to marijuana?

Reading the popular press, a parent, or youth themselves, may get the impression that marijuana is not an addictive drug. This is not true. There is a great deal of research that has shown that marijuana is highly addictive.

If you know that your child is using marijuana, it’s important for you to speak with them about this, the same way you would speak with them about school and friends and problems they are having. There is no doubt that the more you and your teen discuss problems together, the easier it will be for you to discuss their drug use.

However, even teens with good relationships with their parents, who discuss difficult topics often, can be defensive answering questions about marijuana use.  It’s important not to be put off by this.

For a parent who knows or suspects that their teen is using marijuana, there are some behaviours that must be considered warning signs of a significant problem with marijuana use, including:

  • Deteriorating academic performance.
  • Decreased motivation, and even interest, in activities they used to enjoy or must do, such as school.
  • Increased anxiety, depression, or defiance.
  • Decreased involvement in extracurricular activities.
  • Resistance, even fights, and defensiveness when drug-related activity is raised.
  • Increased agitation, that often needs very little provocation.
  • A change in social group, especially if your teen is no longer spending time with old friends, or if all their friends are using marijuana.
  • Emergence of severe behaviour problems, or criminal activity.

If you notice any of these warning signs, do not hesitate to consult your family doctor about what to do. Family doctors have a lot of experience with mental health problems including addiction.

Most communities also have Crisis Lines you can call for advice and online resources you can use to find out where to get help close to home. In Canada, this is where you can get help 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.  There is a similar site for the United States.

Only a medical professional can definitively diagnose Cannabis Use Disorder, the medical term for addiction to cannabis. Cannabis Use Disorder is defined in both the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) and in the tenth edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD–10) as “the continued use of cannabis despite clinically significant impairment”.  (Note: This definition appears in both DSM-V and ICD-10.)

Even though your teen may not have Cannabis Use Disorder, remember that even a small amount of marijuana can cause problems because of intoxication, or your child’s reaction to the drug. Marijuana use is problematic if it interferes with your teen’s best functioning. No one is a better judge of a teen’s best functioning than their parent.

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