Jo McGuire initially dismissed early signs of marijuana abuse in her son as typical teenage behavior. However, a suicide attempt revealed his frequent cannabis use as a coping mechanism for stress and anxiety.
“I still can feel that shock all over again because it was not something that I ever expected or could have imagined,” said McGuire, who at the time had decades of experience in prevention education.
Clinical pharmacist Bill Lynch and licensed mental health counselor Brittany Payne Bruce share McGuire’s unease about the increasing issue of youth struggling with marijuana and other substances. Payne Bruce believes the reasons behind adolescent marijuana use include fitting in, coping with insecurities, and managing school-related pressures.
McGuire’s son is doing well now, and she, as well as Lynch and Payne Bruce, are all committed to educating teens and parents about the risks of early marijuana use.
So, what can parents do to help prevent a child from becoming a regular marijuana user?
McGuire, who is now the founder and executive director of the National Drug and Alcohol Screening Association, advises parents to be mindful of behavioral changes such as bloodshot eyes, dry mouth, mood swings, and increased appetite.
Lynch recommends avoiding panic or judgment and establishing a safe word for communication if their child finds themselves in uncomfortable situations due to drugs or alcohol.
Lynch also suggests enlisting support from mentors or trusted third parties, while Payne Bruce encourages parents to help their children find alternative stress-coping methods.
McGuire also encourages parents to seek resources and professional help if their child develops a substance-use disorder.
“If you feel that your child has developed a substance-use disorder where they feel they can’t go without the substance, get help,” she said. “Stay educated on what is going on out there. Stay informed. Just be vigilant.”
December2023 to watch MMERI’s Conversations on Cannabis Virtual Forum featuring Jo McGuire, Bill Lynch, and Brittany Payne Bruce; share the signs and how parents can get help if their child is using marijuana illegally.