What to do-teen pot smoking edition
April 19, 2017 3:42 AM   Subscribe

Last night my 18-year old senior in high school son called--he was out with friends, was super stoned and wanted permission for his friends to drive him home in his car. They got him home and he went to bed. I've got this question because this the second time in a year and a half that this has happened, AND there are other factors.

Longer explanation (and I would ask for helpful folks to kindly read all of this before responding*): I've been a single parent for 15 years, he's the youngest of 3, a smart-enough and below-average student who is excited for college in the fall, he has a part time job and a car is generally responsible.

He also has bad-thought OCD which has been mostly under control for years. Last year, a few weeks into a med change from an SSRI to an NSRI, he had an epic paranoid pot-smoking episode where I needed to get him from a friend's house because he was hallucinating and freaking out.

A few weeks after, he became suicidal and ended up being hospitalized and then in day treatment for OCD for about 4 months. It was felt at the time the med change was responsible for the suicidal thoughts and he was put back on his SSRI.

He did amazing work with his treatment and managed to scrape through senior year and he's psyched to start college in the fall.

I professionally work with teenagers who have emotional disabilities as well as addiction issues so my judgment may skewed, hence this question -- it's hard to know which way to jump when it's your own kid.

Last night he called, was super-stoned and getting paranoid and asked for permission for a friend to drive his car home (it's school vacation week). I know I'm connecting last year's episode with hospitalization and I may be seeing a pattern where none exists.

While I'm glad he was smart enough to get home safely, I'm concerned that he's gotten this wasted. I understand that weed today is a totally different thing from my day and vaping makes it super easy to get super wasted. However, did this kid learn nothing last year?

Two days ago we were out on a long walk and were discussing weed and drinking. He gave me all the right answers indicating he understands life-altering legal implications of a drug arrest, dangers of impaired driving and other dangers of getting super-wasted, period. And yet, 48 hours later, here we are.

*Please note, I do not want any response along the lines of, "I used to smoke back in the day and I'm fine," I want to know if this level of super-impaired from weed needs to be addressed. Am I connecting dots that don't exist? Over-reacting? Under-reacting?
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes to Human Relations (32 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think it's worth a conversation, especially since he will have more opportunities to smoke weed (and try other substances) at college in the fall. An approach along the lines of why recreational use is riskier for him personally, due to potential med interactions, might be the most productive way to have a conversation that leaves you both feeling reassured. I would stress this point since he understands all the normal reasons and more boiler plate negative consequences of becoming impaired. For the record, I don't think you are under or over reacting. You're being thoughtful about your son and realistic that he will have future opportunities to partake in the future. It's a tough thing for someone to realize they can't do something the people around them enjoy because of special circumstances, but it's important that he fully grasps that he has to be extra careful because he takes medication, has already had a bad experience, and there are plenty of people who also don't react well to weed or other altering substances who don't have anything specific to point to, like meds or OCD. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 4:34 AM on April 19 [9 favorites]


I'd also bring up the self-medication issue, as in, is he choosing to use this heavily because his symptoms aren't really under control with his regular meds? Even if not, could (heavy) pot use be a bad idea for him personally, because it could mask emerging symptoms that require medical treatment, or because it might exacerbate symptoms?

I don't know the medical landscape here, but you likely do or can find out; your son needs to know too since at college he won't have you around to notice if it's time for medical intervention.
posted by nat at 4:42 AM on April 19 [18 favorites]


I think my level of concern would depend upon his reaction. Is he freaked out that this happened? Or is he acting like it's nothing?
posted by schadenfrau at 4:51 AM on April 19 [2 favorites]


I'd not do much other than (very gently) reiterate previous lessons and ask him to be more careful in the future.

He's going to go away soon and get as stoned as he wants as often as he wants and there's realistically nothing effective and healthy you can do about that.

Better to make sure he knows you are there for him than train him to avoid being honest with you. The fact that he called you speaks well of him and your relationship- keep up the good work!
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:57 AM on April 19 [42 favorites]


It might be worth reminding him to be mindful of any possible drug/mental health interactions that could crop up, but you should also praise him for being responsible enough to recognize that he was too impaired to drive and for being willing to discuss it with you rather then trying to keep it a secret.
posted by wierdo at 5:02 AM on April 19 [50 favorites]


Young men and women with emotional/mental problems should not be smoking pot, drinking or using any drug recreationally, especially when using SSRI/NSRI medications. It's just going to make matters much worse for you and your son. Get him into treatment ASAP. I watched a cherished, life long friend go to hell and back several times while caring for her son. And it all started when the boy started drinking, smoking pot etc. I don't want you to go through that.

Good luck to you both.
posted by james33 at 5:07 AM on April 19 [13 favorites]


We know that humans in general are often bad at weighing immediate rewards vs. long-term harms, and kids this age are especially bad at it, so learning a lesson doesn't always mean being able to produce the right answer in a real-world test situation. I would certainly think you should address it, primarily from the angle of getting his consensus that maybe "pot isn't for you" due to the risks, and then engaging in some listening/collaborative strategizing about the background that leads to these choices and coming up with alternative plans so that he can make different choices that he agrees are in his best interests.

Sometimes these sorts of discussions can be more fruitfully pursued with the right therapist/counselor. How successful this approach will be depends a great deal on his level of insight into and buy-in/participation in his own illness and its management.
posted by drlith at 5:11 AM on April 19 [2 favorites]


(a good opening to these kinds of conversations is "I'm worried about you.")
posted by drlith at 5:13 AM on April 19 [2 favorites]


This has been the only episode of pot smoking since last year? I'd be concerned, but not too concerned. It sounds like you have had the right kinds of support in place and he is comfortable talking with you. That's huge.

The transition to college might help in the fall. It sounds like the pot smoking is somewhat situational with one group of friends? The new friends and new routines of college may make a lot of difference in his life.

I would say, keep talking, check in with him, but maintain your chill for the most part. Mental health issues (and teens) are hard hard hard. As you know. You're doing the right things.

(FWIW - I am a parent of a younger child with ADHD and some emotional disturbance issues. I myself take SSRIs. I also am close to some regular weed users. Not a smoker myself.)
posted by pantarei70 at 5:18 AM on April 19 [1 favorite]


To me, it sounds like last night's issue was just getting too stoned (perhaps accidentally), and that's very different than last year's med change+hallucinatory freakout. It's worth a conversation though, just to check in.

It's awesome that he realized that he couldn't drive, and even called you to get permission for a friend to drive him home.
posted by Fig at 5:24 AM on April 19 [12 favorites]


There are a couple of questions you're asking here and this only addresses one of them, so I'm not saying the other factors aren't necessarily problems. But:

Last night he called, was super-stoned and getting paranoid and asked for permission for a friend to drive his car home (it's school vacation week). I know I'm connecting last year's episode with hospitalization and I may be seeing a pattern where none exists.

While I'm glad he was smart enough to get home safely, I'm concerned that he's gotten this wasted. I understand that weed today is a totally different thing from my day and vaping makes it super easy to get super wasted. However, did this kid learn nothing last year?

*Please note, I do not want any response along the lines of, "I used to smoke back in the day and I'm fine," I want to know if this level of super-impaired from weed needs to be addressed. Am I connecting dots that don't exist? Over-reacting? Under-reacting?


It sounds like you're worried that his reaction to the weed and his level of paranoia are unusual and cause for more concern than just the fact that he got super wasted.

I know the links between weed use and mental illness in young people, and I don't want to minimize it. But I can tell you that with a lot of modern strains of weed, especially if it's an unfamiliar strain and you haven't had anything as strong before, it is very easy to get so high that you have a reaction outside the bounds of what you'd normally expect to see. Maybe five years ago (and I probably shouldn't tell this story on the internet but hey, it might help you), I was smoking a bowl as I did fairly often and I decided to put kief (the powdery stuff that falls into the bottom of the grinder) on top. I had never tried this before and used way too much. Long story short, I ate a piece of pasta that felt kind of weird while I was swallowing it while alone in my apartment, decided I was choking to death, and wound up having a full blown screaming panic attack and calling 9-11.

It was horrible. But to this day, even though I suffer from anxiety with OCD characteristics, it's the only panic attack I've ever had, and (geez I hope my parents don't read this) that's not for lack of continuing to smoke after that happened.

Again - don't take this as me saying "so it's all fine." But it's very possible that it is.

One other thing:

Two days ago we were out on a long walk and were discussing weed and drinking. He gave me all the right answers indicating he understands life-altering legal implications of a drug arrest, dangers of impaired driving and other dangers of getting super-wasted, period. And yet, 48 hours later, here we are.

I guess this might have been elided by 'period' but did you guys also talk about the potential mental health implications for someone with a pre-existing mental condition? It sounds as if he actually did absorb some part of this lecture considering he didn't drive - which fact frankly makes me think you raised him right - and, well, kids are dumb and do illegal shit all the time. But if you didn't specifically talk about the mental health stuff, then you should explain to him that that's the reason you're so worried now.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:30 AM on April 19 [4 favorites]


Having a pre-college conversation about the different reasons why he might want to get high and the different situations he might find himself in could be really useful.

I've experienced lifelong severe mental illness (bipolar and a bunch of other stuff) and have also used substances for a whole variety of reasons as a teenager and then an adult. A lot of my teenage substance use was literally about escaping my own mind, made a lot worse by parents who refused to acknowledge that mental illness was a real thing or that it was clearly seriously affecting me. I drank heavily and used any other substances I could get my hands on, purely with the intention of blasting my brain so that it didn't feel quite so terrible for a couple of hours. It wasn't a good coping strategy but it was basically the only one I had.

Now, as an adult, I don't drink at all but I do get high pretty often, and now substance use happens for a bunch of other reasons - sometimes as an escape from my own brain (but I'm a lot better at recognising/owning this now and doing healthier stuff to deflect), sometimes as a recreational/social thing with friends, sometimes as a bonding experience with my partner. I am comfortable enough with myself and with substances to realise for long periods of time (six months plus) that I probably shouldn't be putting anything intoxicating into my body/mind right now, comfortable enough that I can say no, and now that we're all old mellow stoners everyone is exceptionally cool with this (no one has ever given me hassle for saying no or not tonight even when I'm the only person not partaking).

Your son has college coming up, and in my experience that was where the absolute worst of the peer pressure around substances came into play - so many people out of sight of their parents, wanting to get as fucked up and crazy as they possibly could while the party was still going. I went to a pretty straight-laced college as far as drugs went but there was a lot of pressurey behaviour around alcohol consumption, drinking games etc. So being able to be mindful about reasons he might want to use substances and how to make good assessments about whether that's a good idea based on who he's with/his mood/the mood in the room is also super useful.

Before he goes, I think it would be worth both of you spending some time examining any and all of the reasons why he might choose to get high (or use any other substance) - what's been the appeal when he's done it in the past? Recreational? Self-medication? Can he tell the difference, and does he have other options for how to deal with how he's feeling if it's a time when he wants to take or smoke or drink something for reasons of self-escape rather than for social/relaxation reasons?

Also, management strategies for when you think you might accidentally be out of control are important. Calling your parents to arrange a safe ride is a good one, so hopefully this is something he's already thinking about. But also stuff around awareness that paranoia happens sometimes when you get high and you do have a choice about how much you engage a) with the paranoia and b) with the substance when you're already feeling edgy. Redirection and self-management strategies are key here. It's possible to stop yourself from freaking out even if you're convinced you're freaking out.

I think drugs tend to amplify how you're already feeling more than they make you feel anything that's external to you. So a conversation about being emotionally honest with yourself about how you feel before you add anything that's going to alter your consciousness into the mix is probably also important. I know now that if I am feeling a certain way I just should not get high. And most of the sketchy drug-related experiences I've heard about from other people happened because they were already in a situation that felt out of their control - I know someone who never gets high because she had a bad time when she smoked weed once "at 2am in a car with some sketchy guys I didn't know" and felt paranoid; for me the culprit there is much more about being in a bad situation to begin with than doing a drug.

I also don't think messages like "no one who is mentally ill or taking medication should ever take a recreational drug" are helpful, because they ignore the fact that humans are gonna human anyway (Erowid is full of experiences of people messing with their minds with psych meds in the mix - and yes sometimes they do go badly but a lot of the time they go absolutely fine). Personally I think my quality of life would be way, way lower if I didn't have non-sketchy access to marijuana most of the time, even though I've had plenty of people try to give me the "zomg but it's so bad for your brain diseases" talk. They aren't the ones who have to live with pervasive mental illness in a society that treats people with those illnesses badly and doesn't always have a lot of good doctor-approved treatment options available. You do what it takes to get you through. Your son will do what it takes to get him through. And it can be fun and it doesn't have to be harmful by default and god it's important to have fun when there are horrible things wrong with your brain to begin with.

(Finally, I think you sound like a great parent and like you have a relationship with your kid that is already really positive and conducive to this going well. I genuinely believe my quality of life would be way better now if my parents had been more supportive [/less obstructive and outright hostile] around mental health stuff when I was your son's age, and it makes me feel better to know that there are people out there who are capable of doing a good job of this for their kids.)
posted by terretu at 6:05 AM on April 19 [8 favorites]


I'm an adult who has never had a comfortable high (two episodes of questionable weed in slummy college apartments leading to horrific anxiety attacks). Here in super pot-friendly Seattle, about a year after I went on an SSRI I asked my psychiatrist for thoughts/advice about me trying to get happily high in a chill environment, since it's something I have never experienced and am genuinely curious. She told me a couple things, the end result being that I'm not going to bother to look into it further because the potential for badness is too great for me.

One thing she brought up is that I noticed a few months after starting my meds that my alcohol tolerance went waaaaaaay down. Previously I was never a drinker, only nice tasting liquor or sake once in a while, but when I did drink I wouldn't feel tipsy until consuming an amount someone three times my size would need to feel drunk. Solid eastern european genes, I guess. Now I'm a one glass of wine tipsy lady. I'm essentially sober now because I hate feeling drunk, since I never got used to it in my twenties. Anyway, apparently, this side effect of my meds , which is not unusual, can indicate that other recreational drugs can also act in strange ways on my chemistry now. So even if I'm all set up with sober friends and experienced pot enthusiasts and the finest of artisanal emerald city brownie nuggets, my response to it is going to be weird and my buddies' knowledge and common sense isn't going to be much help at all. Even though she said that very occasional pot use isn't specifically contraindicated for me, I don't personally want to risk it.

She also of course cautioned me about using recreational drugs to mask my mental illness' symptoms, which is something I am fully aware of (hello, family history) but is definitely worth bringing up to your kid again, in case it didn't penetrate his teen brain the first time.

The other thing we talked about was me tapering off the SSRI. Presumably if I did so, I would regain my alcohol tolerance and likely have normal responses to non-questionable weed. For me though and how I am, that isn't something I'm interested in doing for at least a few more years, if at all. I don't have OCD though, and I am much older than your kid. He is still growing and will likely go through multiple med adjustments as he settles into himself. I think it's important that you talk about this with him, so he's thinking about it in terms of making things easier on his future self. If he doesn't form set habits and relationships around weed now, if he needs to change medication to something that really won't play nice with it then he won't have to sacrifice anything to switch over.

Being voluntarily addicted to an SSRI is weird, man. Good, but weird. If he has a doctor he trusts, encourage him to take some initiative and talk about the interplay of various things he is likely to encounter and partake of with his current medication. He can be autonomous about this - he'll have to be, soon enough.
posted by Mizu at 6:19 AM on April 19 [4 favorites]


If you want to suss this out with a trained substance use counselor for free (who won't point you towards a specific treatment center for kickback), the nonprofit organization I work for runs a free Helpline and may be able to connect you with other parents in a similar situation.
posted by knownassociate at 6:51 AM on April 19


Getting his version of events is super important. I like the idea of starting with "I'm worried about you." And also "I am proud of you for calling me to let me know and for getting home safely." The next sentence might be "Tell me more about what happened." And then paraphrase back to him what he is telling you to make sure he knows you are following what he is saying. When you can figure out where he is coming from, you will know better what to do next.

If you get counseling for him, someone who works with clients his age and employs Motivational Interviewing techniques might be helpful. MI is pretty effective with teens and is non-adversarial. Teens are not yet consistently good at decision-making and recognizing cause-and-effect. MI helps them think about consequences of behavior and about the future without finger pointing.

NB: I'm a counselor, though I'm not your counselor or his!

Good luck to you and him. <3
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 7:06 AM on April 19 [9 favorites]


I am a doctor who sees a lot of young people who do stupid things on drugs and who have worse than usual reactions/situations occur after using weed, and I am also the family member of someone with severe mental illness whose coping skills and motivation (amongst other things) seemed to be markedly adversely affected when they took up smoking weed. Hence, I might be very biased.

However, I would make sure he is thoroughly aware of the growing body of scientific evidence that marijuana has particularly negative potential consequences for people with mental illness, and try to make sure he knows that as much as you are happy that he called you about this and felt comfortable talking to you about it, and you want him to be able to continue that open communication in the future, that you have reason to believe smoking weed is likely a terrible idea for him specifically (even if for a lot of other people it might be not such a big deal) and that he should really try to avoid it at all costs. I see nothing particularly concerning about the situation you describe aside from just the fact that he was smoking weed, period.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:16 AM on April 19 [6 favorites]


As a parent I would ask him why exactly he smokes pot if he does not enjoy the experience at all. You could explain that not everyone enjoys smoking pot (I don't anymore) because a lot of people don't like the way it makes them feel.
posted by My Dad at 7:23 AM on April 19 [2 favorites]


I would avoid trying to hit him over the head with Science, since the reality is we don't have good data about the effects of pot.

What matters is how it effects him. And why he chooses to use it. If you go in hard with "YOU MIGHT DIE" or "YOU MIGHT HAVE A PSYCHOTIC BREAK" he's just going to tune you out or shut down completely, especially if he's been using it recreationally and has only had two bad episodes. Scare mongering is generally not a good way to foster honest communication, especially when the actual truth is much closer to "we don't know much yet, because we haven't been able to study this because of dumb laws."
posted by schadenfrau at 7:24 AM on April 19


I'm on an snri and use cannabis to manage my anxiety and depression, as well as for fun / just getting stoned with friends. Alcohol on an snri is bad news for my liver and my brain, so I had to stop that entirely.

In the past, I had several awful panicky stoned times when I was with friends just using whatever they had. Now I have access to it through a medical dispensary, not "some guy", so I can ask questions about what I'm getting and I've done my research. The key is to get a high cbd / lower thc strain. The cbd is very effective by itself as an anti anxiety and anti depressant, it also works to prevent the panic and hallucinations from the thc. And stay away from shatter/extracts, they are too much thc. Too many strains out there now have been bred for super high thc with low cbd, which is cool if you want to trip hard but bad news for those of us with mental health issues.

But honestly cannabis can be super helpful with mental health issues when used carefully -- it has recently been key to pulling me out of a major depression, when my snri was just keeping me alive but not getting me out. The dose makes the poison. Tell your son to go do his homework before he gets stoned again. I recommend this book for both of you.
posted by it's FuriOsa, not FurioSA at 7:35 AM on April 19 [12 favorites]


Once he was too high, he made a really good decision. He had somebody else drive, and he called you. So, his impulse control is somewhere in the manageable zone, at least some of the time.

When he goes to college, he will be making these decisions without you around. Talk to him about that, about impulse control, and about how using any recreational substance - alcohol, pot, others - can be done manageably, using an amount that is not too toxic for the body or mind, and makes consequences manageable. And about how using mind-altering substances of any sort is popular, but not actually required to have a really nice life. And praise him for making smart decisions when the situation is beyond his grasp.
posted by theora55 at 7:36 AM on April 19 [13 favorites]


A couple people pointed it out, and this is super badass; he called you and solved the problem without getting in legal trouble or physical trouble. You're miles ahead of most parents here. Good job. That's really huge, and should be acknowledged, and you should be paraded down the streets on a throne as a role model to parents everywhere. High fives forever.

I think you're basically doing the right things already; building a framework for him to be safe and handle his shit. I think you're reacting well. The one thing I would try to get him to agree to is that if he's not stabilized on medication, not to touch any drugs during that timeframe. That should be the hard line you guys try to work towards, and hopefully he is agreeable with. When you're stabilized on a medication you can take things slow and figure out how it reacts with your new system. Smoking cannabis when you're not stabilized on a new medication is a far bigger red flag for me in this situation than smoking weed at all.

I live in a jurisdiction where cannabis is legal, and pretty well traceable and tested. I have some mental health problems (PTSD FWIW), so I can't speak directly to your son's condition. Certain cannabis strains exacerbate my symptoms to the moon and back, while others result in complete abatement of my symptoms. Before prohibition ended, I didn't consume much cannabis because I never knew exactly what would happen. I also couldn't ever gauge potency. At my local shop there's some cannabis with 4-5% THC all the way up to 25%, and I've seen as high as 30%. The difference between 5% THC and 25% THC is like the difference between drinking a PBR and a a pint of whiskey. The latter is gonna get you fuuuuucked REAL fast. Like, no one really reads the alcohol percentage on bottles (especially college students) but that's because we have some cultural markers and some historic context for what a can of PBR's potency is and what it does to our bodies. If you don't live in an area where cannabis is regulated, it's really, really, really difficult to suss that out.

Honestly, there's probably some strains out there that could help his symptoms, and some strains that could help drastically, which might be why he continues to experiment. There could have been one time, he had one strain that made his symptoms completely abate, and he felt normal. If he's had an experience even close to that, it's going to be really hard for him to stop looking for that again. There are strains out there that are not psychoactive (which is something every anti-cannabis crusader I've ever met has not known), and can be a very interesting relief from certain forms of mental illness. I've been really leery of treating cannabis like medication, but (with the two giant caveats that you live in an area where it's traceable and tested, and you're not prone to addiction) you can find some really interesting strains that can laser right into very specific results (which I realize are not scientific and purely anecdotal). But the flipside is also true; especially in young adults with mental health issues, it can be pretty detrimental in all of the opposite way's I've described above. It really sucks that we just don't know.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:55 AM on April 19 [10 favorites]


I think your son has been doing really well at asking for help when he thinks he shouldn't drive, and it's great that he feels that he can talk to you about what he's up to. As far as the marijuana use, I think the things to talk to him about look like this:

Is he using it in smaller quantities than the two times you've cited here?

Is it providing him with some level of anxiety relief? Marijuana in some quantity can be really great for people with anxiety.

Does he always get paranoid when he smokes? If so, then talk to him about what he's getting out of it and whether it's just that he had too much a couple of times.

I think marijuana in small amounts can be great for people with anxiety issues, which includes OCD. I work with people who have disabilities and what I have seen overwhelmingly is that it can be extremely beneficial. He's likely trying to self-medicate, and if you approach it like that you're probably going to gain more traction with him than if you treat him like he's doing something terrible that messes up his life. Also, do not send him to treatment, that's ridiculous. It's an excessive punishment that will make his overall mental state worse, make him resent you, and make it harder to catch up in school.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:17 AM on April 19 [2 favorites]


Well, remember, you did have a talk with him about the legal dangers, and 48 hours later, he DID remember and call you. That's really awesome, and a great sign that he trusts and feels safe talking to you. You are a good parent.

A talk about the combination of unknown drugs and his particular mental health would be really helpful. As would him learning about the different kinds of cannabis (as he's going to do what he's going to do, while in college). If he understands the (basically) two most important characteristics of different kinds of pot, he can better understand why he is saying no, and what exactly he is saying no to. Knowing that someone's pot has a high THC content would clearly inform him that it may be an anxiety elevating joint, not the recalling feeling he's probably expecting.
posted by Vaike at 9:23 AM on April 19 [1 favorite]


2nd My Dad. It's not even fun for him! So why do it? Maybe because he thinks there's a chance it *will* be fun next time... Maybe because he wishes he could be like everyone else and just enjoy the sky or find another level of enjoyment in cheese sticks, or giggle, or write poetry you're convinced (at that time) is great.

It's hard to come to terms with difference, not just in the abstract but in practical terms. Having OCD (along with maybe taking meds for it) means getting paranoid when you smoke pot. It means that right in the moment when everyone else is having a great time, you're freaking out.

I think young people especially have a hard time accepting things that ruin the idea of fun & fitting in & being "normal". Who's not going to resent it, try to buck against it, want to test it out?

I think he'll probably wind up testing things a few times before he's ready to get that things are just different for him.

(You might suggest that if he's going to do it, he should at least avoid high THC strains, which, I'm given to understand, are the ones that make things tough for anxious types. In contrast to strains with more CBD. In fact I know someone with a medical prescription for a CBD strain, *for anxiety* (though not OCD.))
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:51 AM on April 19


Check your MeFiMail.
posted by headnsouth at 12:41 PM on April 19


I think this is worth a conversation about heeding lessons about one's limits, in anything, and making educated personal decisions. And it's not just about smoking pot, but smoking pot is a totally voluntary optional thing and if you can't learn a basic lesson from an extremely negative experience there then how can you be trusted to know when you're too tired to drive, when to put food in your body and when to stop, when to sleep, when to study for your college classes and how to tell when you need to get help from your instructor? How are you gonna take care of yourself if you can't even not be That Guy when the weed comes out? You have to put yourself to bed when you're a grownup, you have to get up and go to class all on your own.

I mean, probably all high school seniors should be given this lecture every Monday morning, but especially adolescents with Known Neurochemical Issues need to be working on the skills required for good lifestyle management, because Parent can't do it for them anymore. He needs to prove he can and will do that.

The thing that's happening to him when he smokes weed is hardly a little-known side effect, especially in people with anxiety and impulsive/intrusive/compulsive thoughts. Maybe he needs help practicing deliberate decision-making, how to research things, how to take in information and previous experience and predict future outcomes. We sort of assume everyone knows how to do that, but not everyone does. Help him learn, before he ends up in a situation way more dangerous without an easy out.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:49 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]


Personally, I'm amazed that a teenager who smoked way too much weed and started getting paranoid felt comfortable calling his mom and telling her what was going on. I had mental health issues as a teenager, I never enjoyed smoking weed, and I freaked out all the time . The LAST thing I would have wanted to do was call my mom. I think it's a big deal that he trusts you enough that he'll call you when he's in that situation.

I'm not a parent, and I don't know your son, so I'm not going to make any statement to the effect of "he's fine!" You know people sometimes say what their parents want them to hear, or they sometimes think "just this once..." and rationalize excessive behavior. You don't know how often he's smoking weed, or that this is the only time he's overdone it in the last year and a half. But I remember being a teenager, and I think to the extent that you're not going to stop him from smoking weed altogether, it's really great to be there for him and for him to trust you enough that he reached out to you last night. Do you think you'll violate that trust if you check in with him? Do you think he's embarrassed because he KNOWS he shouldn't have gotten so wasted again, and he knows you're going to have to say something? Do you think he's expecting you to say something because he knows you care?

Feel free to totally disregard what I'm saying, since you know the situation much better than I do, but it sounds to me like one option is to be honest and more or less say to him what you said in your post. It doesn't sound like you're overly concerned about him smoking weed in the first place, just that he overdid it this time. Personally, I think he deserves praise for calling you instead of driving home anyway (or at least a reminder that he did the right thing). Trust me, not everyone would do that. Beyond that, you're pretty upfront here about wanting what's best for him, and knowing that you can't make an objective decision about what's right here -- just that this event has given you a reason to be concerned, and while you don't think he's throwing his life away, this does (pretty reasonably) make you want to check in and see how he's doing.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:27 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]


[Where are people getting the information that he doesn't enjoy the experience? It doesn't seem to be in the question as posed.]
posted by Lexica at 1:49 PM on April 19 [3 favorites]


>Last night he called, was super-stoned and getting paranoid
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:39 PM on April 19


First off, nthing everyone who says you are an awesome parent. Your kid called you when he was badly off to make sure he could get home safely. Way to go! My kid, who has a chronic mental illness, has nearly always been able to talk to me about sex. But not about drugs. And her self-medication led to a lot of heartbreak all around when she was in her teens. She's now on helpful medication, stable, yadda yadda. But it's a day by day process for her to stay as healthy as possible.

I'm not telling you anything you don't know but here's my take: You are not overreacting; you can't solve this problem; you can model ways to think about it.

For example, transitions are challenging for nearly all of us but especially for those of us with mental or other illnesses. My kid typically overestimates the amount of joy that a new thing (such as school) will bring her and the amount of difficulty mastering this new thing involves. When she was younger, she would turn to pot and other things to cope when life was harder than expected.

I mention this because people don't use pot or alcohol or prescription medications in a vacuum--there is a context involved. So one of my questions would be if you have you helped your son or plan to help your son build a framework for the transition. I'm guessing that his college might be able to build-in extra support for him in advance rather than cobble something together in the face of a potential emergency. (I didn't do that for my kid during a huge and challenging transition and that's one of my failures as a mom.)

One of the wonders of my kid getting older (she's in her early 20s), has been watching her shift from doing whatever she wanted and risking her life in the process to becoming thoughtful about her own health and learning to advocate--on her own--for what she needs. So consider expressing your concern and then asking him how he plans to manage his health rather than telling him what to do. It's also reasonable to say that you can totally understand why he gets high at times, if that's true. And then you can model responsible adulthood and self-care by asking him helpful questions without being judgmental.

Like, why was he smoking recently. Just for fun? To relieve stress? For another reason? All of the above? If so, are there additional ways he can manage his feelings when he feels like way again? Like, "Smoking pot is one way to handle that. That's totally your choice. Are there other choices as well that might help you cope with X?" Like, it wasn't until I was in my 50s and trying to help my kid with her own problems that I realised there are constructive ways to self-soothe and cope with uncomfortable feelings. That was never modelled for me. I'm pretty sure you've modelled those things for your son, but it doesn't hurt to make it explicit by making a list or something.

You might consider suggesting he consider a harm reduction model when it comes to pot and alcohol consumption. This PDF (sorry, automatic download) factually lists four potential harms from smoking pot and tips for reducing that potential harm. (Don’t use the day or night before an important or new challenge; try using smaller amounts and less often, etc.)

Finally, it's mid-April. You know this but I will say it anyway: This is the start (or continuation) of a conversation with your son. You don't have to (and probably shouldn't) try to cover everything in one conversation. This may well become a lifetime conversation. That would be wonderful. Your son called when he needed you. What you think matters to him. Continue being loving and nonjudgemental. Continue providing context ("because of your illness, stuff that other people consume without a problem may be a problem for you"). Continue being open to what he tells you, and openly curious about the wonderful college adventure he has ahead of him as well as how he plans to deal with his health and other challenges. Cause everybody has challenges. And for him or anyone else to pretend otherwise is simply unrealistic. So you are his reality check, as well as a great parent. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 3:59 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]


So many great answers; thanks. In response to questions:
- he felt pretty stupid that it happened, spent time researching weed's effects on people with different mental wiring, understands some strains can give him a really bad reaction which he won't know until it's happening, and is taking a break

- thanks for the advice to praise him for calling me -- it was 100% the right approach

- as to why he's doing it, it's because his 3 best friends (non-partiers) since elementary school have been too busy to hang out recently so he's been with other kids who party more and he didn't want to be that kid who wasn't smoking. He said that kids who have nothing better to do than drive around getting high and looking for parties aren't all that interesting and he's not going to hang with them

- he's got a plan for college, has spoken to the campus clinic and will check in with them when he moves

- his therapist who he will continue to see when in college confirmed they had spoken, said they did speak about drugs/alcohol and his OCD and possible unintended consequences, does not think he is in danger or in need of a rehab program at this point

- lastly, while I was pleased he called and did the right thing, I was pretty hard about, "This doesn't mean I think you're making wicked smart choices," and showed him the clip from 30 Rock where Matt Damon's pilot says about Sully Sullenberger, "You know what a great pilot would have done? Not hit the birds. That's what I do every day, not hit birds. Where's my ticket to the Grammys?," then told him he needs to figure out how to not hit the birds. So, life lesson AND 30 Rock was win-win.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:24 AM on April 20 [5 favorites]


vaping makes it super easy to get super wasted

Just chiming in a stoner in his 50s who disagrees with this. Vaping does not mean one gets higher, it only means that one doesn't inhale all the grosser things that come with burning the plant. I get highest from water pipes. The same weed will be less strong to me when vaped, and I will use more to achieve the same high.

Sorry for the derail. Good luck.
posted by terrapin at 9:16 AM on April 20 [1 favorite]


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