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Signs of Pot Use in Teens, From Breath Mints to Burns

Drug paraphernalia in the bedroom is an obvious indicator of marijuana use. But what are the more subtle signs that a teenager is smoking pot?

How keen are your parental powers of observation? You may think you know all there is to know about your teenage son or daughter, but every parent can be surprised at how quickly their beloved child has adopted some different interests – some of which can be harmful to their health and future.

With all the headlines about marijuana becoming legal, whether medically or for recreational use, it might be a good time to list some of the ways to know if your teen is smoking pot. A few are the kind of stereotypical behavior often seen in movies and on TV, while others point to a pattern of behavior that is more disturbing.

A Case Of The Munchies – or, There’s Never Enough Food in the House

It’s not a myth that people who smoke pot get cravings to eat. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, activates parts of the brain (cannabinoids receptors) that are linked to appetite.

If you frequently find your teen’s room littered with potato chip bags, cookie crumbs, fast food cartons, candy wrappers and the like or you see your child raiding the refrigerator, pantry or counter for something to munch on, it could very well be a sign that this increase in appetite has more to do with pot smoking than a growth spurt.

Curiously, the munchies generally don’t tend to extend to healthy food. It’s more the junk food variety that pot-smoking teens crave. Salty, sweet, instant carbs – that’s your clue. The more often you find this face-stuffing behavior occurring, the more likely pot is at the root of the cause.

A Real Couch Potato

Typical teenage behavior doesn’t mean lounging on the couch or staring up at the ceiling in the bedroom for hours on end. If your teen has become more lethargic than usual and this pattern of behavior continues for some time, it could be a sign that drugs of some sort are the reason.

Any abrupt sign of lethargy and listlessness may also have a physiologic or emotional reason as well, so be careful to determine if there’s a valid cause that may require medical assistance before jumping to the conclusion that weed is the reason your teen spends so much time being a couch potato.

Add munchies to a tendency to slouch around on the couch and this is a double indicator that pot smoking may be the underlying reason.

Collection Of Stoner Movies

If your teen has a penchant for movies synonymous with pot-smoking characters, such as anything with Harold and Kumar or Cheech and Chong, it could be a sure sign that it’s more than comedy that sparks your child’s interest.

Other titles that may be suspect include Pineapple Express, Dazed and Confused, Half Baked, Up In Smoke, Super High Me, Saving Grace, Grandma’s Boy, Easy Rider, The Big Lebowski and Friday. Note that these aren’t all comedies and it is by no means an all-inclusive list.

Maybe the family has watched one or more of these movies together when they showed up on cable or regular TV. If so, how did your teen react during the filming? It could be a good opportunity for a discussion on the topic of smoking pot.

On the other hand, if it leads to a reminiscent look at your own adolescent foray into weed experimentation, tread very carefully here. Make sure the lessons you learned — and want to pass on — are ones beneficial to your teen’s future.

Everything’s Hilarious

Laughter may be the best medicine, but certainly not when your teen starts thinking that everything you say is hilarious. Life just isn’t always that funny, especially when laughter comes at the most inappropriate moments.

When would that be? In the middle of a discussion about your teen’s grades slipping at school, when you’re consoling another child in the family about something upsetting, when you are trying to have a serious conversation about a change in your job or a financial problem in the family, if someone has died – all these would be highly inappropriate times for your teen to burst into laughter.

Breath Mints, Gum and Eye Drops

A cleaner, fresher mouth may be the goal, but if you notice your teen always popping breath mints, chewing gum and constantly using eye drops, there’s likely more motivating your child than good appearances.

The smell of pot on the breath is as sure a telltale as nicotine – and users seek to disguise it with powerful mints or gum with varying degrees of success.

Red eyes from smoking pot are not just another myth that has no basis in fact. Don’t be fooled by comments that there’s something in the air or that allergies are the reason (unless they are). It’s the repetitiveness of the pattern that should be cause for concern. Using mints and gum and eye drops on occasion shouldn’t be anything to worry about. After all, everyone finds them useful at one time or another.

Say, What?

If your teen can’t seem to follow your conversation or has the attention span of a gnat, and this problem persists for some time, there’s definitely cause for concern. This isn’t normal and it could very well indicate experimentation with or regular use of drugs, including marijuana.

The danger is that research has found that teens use of marijuana can damage cognitive abilities beyond attention span and that such damage can become permanent.

No sense calling out your teen on his or her inability to follow the thread of the conversation, at least not when the situation is happening right now. It’s better to address the problem when your teen is off the high and more receptive to listening.

It should be pointed out here that chronic pot smokers will have less and less clearheaded time to listen to or devote to serious discussions about much of anything.

Brownie Cookbooks

A fascination with hundreds of different ways to prepare brownies, or a sudden intense interest in eating brownies, could be another sign that your teen is taking a common approach to pot consumption.

Baking weed doesn’t eliminate its potency. Another telltale is eating multiple brownies in a single setting. No one needs that many brownies, no matter the recipe or ingredients (marijuana included).

Another conceivable scenario is when your teen decides to bake separate batches of brownies, one for friends and the other for family.

On the other hand, maybe your teen just loves brownies. Use caution before jumping to conclusions and always look for other telltale signs that pot smoking may be an issue.

Sudden Accumulation Of Pot-Inspired Clothing

Teens may think it cool or trendy to wear T-shirts and jackets with graphics touting weed or pot-smoking, but if your teen starts bringing home clothing so emblazoned, it could be time for a talk with your offspring about the kind of message this may be sending.

If you live in states where marijuana is legal for recreational use, such as Washington and Colorado, you may already have found it necessary to deal with this behavior on the part of your teen. On the other hand, in states where pro-marijuana supporters are trying to influence legislators or drum up support for pot, marketing of weed-inspired clothing may just be taking off.

Even in states where the drive for medical marijuana has yet to take off,  apparel touting its use has blossomed. In Boston, a former Northeastern student created Kush Groove Clothing, a line of jackets, T-shirts, hats and hooded sweatshirts that have been embraced by celebrities in the hip-hop community and handed out at rallies supporting legalization of marijuana. The founder created his company when still in high school and handed out clothing to his classmates.

That dark green, spiky leafed plant, anything with “420” on it – these are images to watch out for. (“420” refers to the consumption of cannabis. It was reportedly allegedly coined by a group of teenagers in San Rafael, Calif., in 1971.)

Frequent Use Of “Dude”

For a while, it seemed like every teenager in town was calling friends, parents, siblings and strangers “Dude.” While the use of the word may have faded in some areas, it’s still widely used in, you guessed it, stoner movies and on TV programs.

Depending on the age of your teen, he or she may have recently adopted this catch-all word or once used it and abandoned it in favor of some other slang term.

Remember the movie The Big Lebowsky mentioned earlier? That’s where “Dude” was given star billing. Harold and Kumar are also quite prone to using it – mostly when stoned, but even when not.

Bottom line: Use of the term “Dude” is not cute, although it may be a habit that’s hard to ditch.

How to wean you teen off it? Maybe remind your son or daughter that you are Dad or Mom, not anybody’s “Dude.”

Black Light Posters in Bedroom

If the décor in your teen’s bedroom looks like something out of an amusement park horror house, replete with black light posters of Van Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, the Rolling Stones and the like, and there’s a warning sign to “Keep Out” posted on the door, it could be your child has taken to expressing his or her feelings in the choice of so-called wall art.

Add to this the loud sound of music blasting at all hours or, when you are granted entrance, you see your teen’s head bobbing and weaving to music escaping the headphones, and it’s a likely sign that there’s more than taste in art and music at play here.

Then, again, maybe you remember your own brief phase of black light poster involvement. Could it be you have something in common that you can turn into a meaningful discussion on getting on with life?

Here are clear signs your teen may be smoking marijuana:

  • Appearing stoned.
  • Sudden drop in academic performance.
  • Your teen no longer participates in or enjoys experiences once found rewarding and enjoyable.
  • Signs of depression or isolation.
  • Abrupt change in friends, especially discarding good friends for some that may seem to you to be less desirable.
  • Talking in code with friends in your presence.
  • A sudden need for more money – and nothing much to show for it. Using drugs and paying for them can get expensive, whether it’s marijuana or something else.
  • Presence of small burns on the thumb and forefinger – this is caused by smoking a joint down to the end. It isn’t from a science experiment at school.
  • Heavy use of incense in the bedroom. Like using mints, mouthwash and gum, teens will take up burning incense to disguise the fact that they’ve been smoking pot in their rooms.
  • Other signs of drug paraphernalia in their room or backpack or purse, including rolling papers, pipes, roach clips and bongs. This is a clear sign that pot smoking has gone far beyond the stage of experimentation and has become a habit.

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