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ADHD and cannabis: What to do if your ADHD kid starts smoking weed

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!

In this image, parents are being encouraged to seek help if their child with ADHD starts smoking weed, as mental health is important.

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.

The hand holds a small plant.

There are many reasons why ADHD children are more likely to use cannabis than Neurotypical children including:

  1.  They need excitement and fun activities to stimulate their brain more than Neurotypical children,
  2. They will always be keen to find something different to do – something they haven’t done before,
  3. They like to push boundaries,
  4. They have little or no respect for authority, so being told to stay away from drugs is going to have very little effect,
  5. 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,’
  6. 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,
  7. 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
  8. 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…

The night sky is illuminated by the neon lights of the skyscrapers and the electricity of the city's infrastructure, creating a vibrant atmosphere on the outdoor street and road.

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?

A person art model poses for a photo shoot, showcasing their stomach and belly.

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.

A person is wearing a black shirt.

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.

A person is holding a hand with a nail in it outdoors, releasing a fluid of water into the sky.

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

A smiling child holds a colorful chart with various tasks and rewards, providing a helpful guide for their daily routine.

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

We do hope that this was a useful article on ADHD. Why not check out the other resources on ADHD for parents and teachers that we have on the site? Here are some examples of what is included within these:

ADHD on KiddyCharts Part 3

Here are a selection of articles from KiddyCharts on ADHD - do check out all of them on our resources pafge though.

And more articles offsite for you to take a look at too:

Other articles on ADHD from the web (Part 2)

Here are some more articles on ADHD from the internet - do check them out alongside the other resources that we have on our site too.

Sign up to our newsletter for more articles on ADHD and other activities to keep the kids busy as well:

We hope you are back soon. Don’t forget to check out the whole site, and all our amazing resources for kids, parents and teachers.

Take care,

A parent is being advised to seek help from an ADHD counsellor on how to handle their child's smoking of weed.

Helen is a mum to two, social media consultant, and website editor; and this site is (we think) the only Social Enterprise parenting magazine! Since giving up being a business analyst when juggling travel, work and kids proved too complicated, she founded KiddyCharts so she could be with her kids, and use those grey cells at the same time. KiddyCharts has reach of over 1.1million across social and the site. The blog works with big family brands (including travel) to help promote their services, as well as offering free resources to parents of kids under 10. It gives 51%+ profits to Reverence for Life, who fund a number of important initiatives in Africa, including bringing running water and basic equipment to a school in Tanzania. Helen has worked as a digital marketing consultant (IDM qualified) with various organisations, including Channel Mum, Truprint, Talk to Mums, and Micro Scooters. She loves to be creative in the brand campaigns she works on. Get in touch TODAY!

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