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Parents need to be the Role Models Once Marijuana is Available

smoking-MJ
As I was writing this column, the law enabling the sale of marijuana in New Jersey has not gone into effect yet. I expect that the governor already signed the bill and it went into effect January 1, 2021. But don't assume that sale of the plant will go into effect immediately. There is more work for the legislature to do. There is a need for the state legislature to establish guidelines for anything cannabis-related.

What I can tell you for sure today is that what New Jersey legalized was what is referred to as "regulated" cannabis. Translated, it means that there is a need for a system of regulations that cover cultivation, production, testing, distribution, and sales to be created. Just keep in mind that "regulated" marijuana means that it was obtained at a dispensary. All other recreational cannabis is still illegal in the state. And as important -- you also can't grow your own.

So why am I here today? Because research found that when parents use marijuana, that act could easily increase the likelihood that their own children's use of marijuana may commence, or possibly increase. And definitely, their view of marijuana-use is likely to become more favorable. This study found that: Children's risk of marijuana and alcohol use and attitudes toward marijuana were influenced by their parents' marijuana use pattern over time. And, children whose parents used marijuana primarily during adolescence/early adulthood and those whose parents continued to use marijuana from adolescence through adulthood were at highest risk.

We also know that when parents use drugs, including marijuana, their children may also be affected. Numerous studies have shown that current parental marijuana use increases the children's risk of substance use and other psychiatric problems. A recent National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) study demonstrated that the parents' history of marijuana use throughout their lifetime may also affect their children's outcomes and that some lifetime use patterns are more harmful than others.

Data from the most recent annual Monitoring the Future survey, conducted by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, show that from 2017 to 2019, the percentage of teens who said they vaped nicotine in the past 12 months doubled. The survey also found that after a twofold increase over the past two years, rates of past-year vaping of marijuana also remained steady in 2020.

With the number of adults who use marijuana rising following the drug's legalization in several other states, the effect of prior and current parental marijuana use on their children is an increasingly significant public health concern. This NIDA study further suggests that efforts to reduce children's risk of drug use must take into consideration not only the parent's ongoing marijuana use but also their use history.

So what can you do? To start, if you are an active user of marijuana, you need to stop. Please seek help to do so. There are many resource available for you to do just that. If you want to locate help locally, may I suggest you go here: https://wellspringprevention.org/information-referral/treatment-referrals

Assuming that you are not a marijuana user, then you need to do the following: Have a conversation with your youth and be clear that drug use will not be tolerated, and set the terms of any ramifications to follow, such as grounding or earlier curfew. It is critical to then implement any such repercussions, in order to underline the severity of the situation. Make sure you provide children with opportunities to re-establish the bond of trust, such as supervising homework and chores but also recognizing a job well done. Make sure you are responsive to your child's efforts to correct the behavior, as a punishing attitude alone can jeopardize or damage the emotional bond between parent and child.

And remember, if a friend is involved, consider contacting the parents. First, it will send a message that drug use will not be tolerated. Second, it can help the other parents to take measures to prevent their children's drug abuse. Third, it creates a dialogue around drug use between concerned parents.

There are various factors involved in identifying the best treatment for marijuana abuse. A parent who decides that a structured rehab program is the best course of action will need to decide whether or not to pick a specialized adolescent/teen program. The next step may be to determine whether an inpatient or outpatient program is most suitable. A rehab admissions counselor can help a parent to understand which program type and services are most advisable. You may also wish to approach an individual Private Practitioner who can help guide you through the right steps. Any of this information can be had by calling our agency's hotline at 732.254.334.

Best of luck.

Ezra Helfand is CEO/Executive Director of the Wellspring Center for Prevention (formerly NCADD of Middlesex County, Inc.) You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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