Pubdate: Fri, 07 Jul 2017
Source: Hartford Courant (CT)
Copyright: 2017 The Hartford Courant
Author: Teresa M. Pelham


"Hey, Mom. Have you ever smoked weed?"

The only question perhaps trickier than this would include either
algebra or an unwanted marriage proposal.

I kind of thought I didn't have to worry anymore about getting asked
this question. The teen questioner and I had just sat down to lunch at
Plan B with his grandmother. It totally threw me off.

Years ago I remember seeing a public service advertisement by the
Office of National Drug Control Policy showing a coffee mug that read
"#1 Hypocrite." The organization's stance was that parents should not
be honest about any past drug use with their children. If we are, it
surmised, kids could look at our successful lives and think that using
drugs won't negatively affect their future.

Whether this is still the position of the ONDCP is unclear, despite
numerous queries to the organization which shares web space with the
White House. (No response to a member of the media? Shocking.)

My friends and I have been having this conversation for years. If the
ONDCP says don't fess up, I've said, they must know what they're
talking about. But this theory was put to the test last year when one
friend's son realized his parents weren't telling the truth and used
it against them when trying to rationalize his own drug use. Oopsie.

The D.A.R.E. anti-substance abuse program, which has been brought to
classrooms since 1983 and is now in 75 percent of the country's school
districts, has had its share of criticism over the years because of
questions regarding its effectiveness. But D.A.R.E. leaders listened
to critics in the prevention education field and its curriculum
evolved to accommodate both changing times and regional issues. They
consult with members of law enforcement and know the current thinking
around addiction and drug use for adolescents. At this point, I trust

So what's D.A.R.E.'s stance on this question of honesty? President and
CEO Frank Pegueros says we as parents should actually be truthful with
our kids when talking about our past substance use.

"Children are more perceptive than we give them credit for," says
Pegueros. "It's better to be truthful since they can usually see right
through a lie. I've found not being truthful makes life more

The biggest factor regarding marijuana specifically, he says, is the
way the substance itself has changed since we parents were young.

"The marijuana of 2017 is a very different substance than the
marijuana of 1987 or 1997," he says. "The THC [Tetrahydrocannabinol]
content is a lot higher than it used to be. Today's marijuana is
genetically engineered to be stronger."

I know. Using the "It was OK for us but not for you" argument can go
over just as well with pot as it does with wearing seat belts, riding
in the back of a pick-up truck, and hitchhiking.

In addition to pot being stronger today, new studies are showing that
using marijuana more than once a week affects the teenage brain in
some pretty bad ways. It impairs memory and problem-solving skills.
And, these same studies show that the long-term effects of smoking pot
are far less detrimental if young people wait until after they turn

So are you ready when and if your kiddo springs a question like this
on you? Maybe drawing on scientific evidence to learn about pot and
its risks together is the best approach to the shifting sands of
adolescent decision making.

Whatever you do, don't say you tried it but didn't

Teresa M. Pelham is a Farmington-based writer. She is the author of
three children's books, and frequently visits schools with her therapy
dog to share her message about animal rescue.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt