We have a very important topic today on the site within the series of resources for parents and teachers on ADHD. This is another article from Sarah Templeton from Headstuff ADHD Therapy, and covers ADHD and cannabis. Specifically, she is explaining to us what to do if our child with ADHD starts to smoke cannabis. For more info, don’t forget to check out her books here as well:
The first piece of advice from Sarah is: Don’t panic!
Don’t scream and yell at them that they are on the rocky road now to hard drugs and are going to end up dead in a ditch from heroin before they’re 18. Tempting though that might be especially if you, their dad or older siblings have never been near drugs. It’s going to be absolutely shocking and terrifying for some families who suddenly find drugs appearing in the house and the smell of cannabis wafting out of their windows.
But honestly – do not panic, especially if your child is ADHD and here’s why…..
Why it is important not to panic when ADHD and cannabis make an appearance
As a counsellor working with thousands of ADHD teenagers, I have realised how incredibly common it is for the vast majority of them to start using cannabis often from a very young age.
Nine is the youngest I’ve heard of, but much more common is around the age of 13/14.
There are many reasons why ADHD children are more likely to use cannabis than Neurotypical children including:
- They need excitement and fun activities to stimulate their brain more than Neurotypical children,
- They will always be keen to find something different to do – something they haven’t done before,
- They like to push boundaries,
- They have little or no respect for authority, so being told to stay away from drugs is going to have very little effect,
- They are more keen to fit in and people please than other children so if their friends start smoking weed, they will be more likely to join in to feel like ‘one of the gang,’
- Their brain is impulsive, so before they have even thought whether it’s sensible, or even if they want to, they may find themselves with a joint in their hands,
- Their brain doesn’t naturally think of the consequences, so weed becoming a habit or leading onto harder drugs almost always won’t enter their brain, and
- Risk-taking and thrill-seeking are part of the ADHD brain function so doing something mum and dad won’t approve of is always going to appeal to them
The interesting fact is it isn’t even the above eight reasons that are the two MAIN ones why ADHD teenagers use cannabis.
What are the two main reasons kids with ADHD use cannabis: And you might be surprised…
Literally every single boy and girl adolescent I have worked with has happily told me the two main reasons they do – and these have been identical in every ADHD teenager who has sat in front of me.
They use it because it helps to calm down their racing thoughts, and busy brain. They also use it because it helps turn their brain off at night to sleep.
This story never differs. However much cannabis a teenager is using, it is always for these two key reasons.
Stop for a moment before you have a rant at them
Spare a thought before you have your anti-drugs rant, though.
Possibly your child has been living for the best part of a decade with a brain that just won’t stop feeling like a spaghetti junction of crashing thoughts careering around their brain 24-7.
They might have struggled massively with sleep. And I mean massively. Sometimes spending up to four or five hours trying to get to sleep, waking up in the middle of the night numerous times and then waking up too early in the morning leaving them feeling shattered. If cannabis is the answer to any of this, can we really blame them for turning to it?
Much as I understand all this, I have never had one puff of weed myself. This is largely because I have never smoked. So moving onto weed has never been an option for me.
BUT, please don’t think I’m advocating the use of it.
I’ve also seen the terrible damage it does to peoples’ brains. Many boys I worked with when I was a counsellor in Young Offender units had chronic paranoia by their early 20s. Even they would admit this had ruined their life. I have members of my family who have ruined their own mental health by doing colossal amount of cannabis during their 20s.
Whilst we all might understand why ADHD teenagers start using cannabis, it’s a very good idea to try to stop it.
How on earth do you do that when your ADHD teenager thinks they know best about everything?
Note from editor: Personally, we have seen the terrible damage that cannabis longterm use in those that are neurodiverse causes. Believe us, it really isn’t worth it. It is live changing, and life limiting. Getting medical support, counselling, and advice is a much better route. This way there a lot less potential damage to the brain, and life choices.
How to help your teen with their cannabis use
Education and communication is the answer to this.
What won’t work is a flat telling them it is not allowed. Don’t even try the: not under your roof angle. It likely won’t work if you will ground them or take away privileges if they do it again either.
Any kind of dictating how and what they will do in future simply won’t work. This is, in fact, the way to guarantee they will carry on doing it, but behind your back. That’s the last thing you want, of course.
The very best way to handle this is to sit them down and have a very grown-up conversation.
No shouting. No accusations. No judging.
Instead ask them about their usage. Where are they buying it? Make sure this is in as safe a way as possible. From a private house is the better option than in the supermarket car park or a crack den. Here they are likely to encounter harder drugs.
Next, make sure they are not buying any for their friends. If they are, this means they can be arrested for supply, even if they are not making a profit. Finally, make sure they aren’t buying larger quantities to sell on. It likely won’t have entered their little impulsive/not thinking of the consequences ADHD head, that this makes them a drug dealer. And as such, of great interest to the police.
Talk to them about the effects of cannabis on the brain
Do your research beforehand about the effects of cannabis on the brain. Speak to your child adult-to- adult about the long-term damage they could be causing. At the same time, totally understanding the benefits they are getting from their usage. Look for alternative ways to achieve the calm brain and better sleep they are no doubt seeking.
Always be on their side. You can assure them you want the best for their future. Risking crippling paranoia and long-term brain damage is not what you want for them. Together come up with ways of reducing their usage and ideally stopping it completely. If they are not on ADHD medication now is the time to make sure they are. I’ve seen many teenagers stop using cannabis completely the minute they start taking ADHD meds.
Note: We are not a medical site. This is personal opinion and for all medical issues, please see your GP, or paediatric consultant
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