17yo son is smoking dope. How do I handle this?

(177 Posts)
BIWI Mon 20-Feb-12 18:39:19

I have had suspicions for a while that his peer group have been dabbling with dope, and a bit of undercover sleuthing by me this morning has confirmed it.

It seems to have progressed from smoking dope supplied by others to buying it him/themselves.

I am alarmed by this generally, but also very specifically because we are having the first inkling of problems at college as well. We had a letter from college just before half term to say that he has missed 21% of classes since January.

When I asked him about this, he told me it was just one subject hmm and that he had been missing classes because he hadn't done his homework - but that he had realised how stupid he was being and had stopped doing it. He swears that he is now up to date with all his coursework/homework. (I haven't yet checked this; today was the first day back and I simply haven't had the opportunity to call the college).

How do I handle this? My natural instinct is simply to go ballistic blush which probably won't help matters.

Because of the issue with his work, he is already having his X-Box 'rationed' - he isn't allowed to use it until after 9.00 pm, and after he has done some work. This was put in place before the issue of drugs reared its ugly head.

He goes to a lot of sleepovers at the weekend, but only occasionally has friends staying with us. The last time was Saturday night, after a (very) late return from a gig, and I know now that they were smoking a joint here at 4am in our garden angry.

I have a lot of questions:

- how do I deal with this?
- how do I discipline in regard to this?
- would grounding help? (Personally I'm doubtful)
- should I stop giving him pocket money? He doesn't yet have a job to fund himself, so I could stop him buying it (although nothing to stop him smoking stuff others have bought)
- I know the boy (who was here on Saturday night) reasonably well, and also his parents. Should I call them and talk to them about it too? (I have no idea what their reaction might be/whether they know/suspect)

He is, in the main, a 'good' boy, and should do well in his AS/A-levels, although he is not really applying himself generally. I really need to find some way to sort this out so that he can do his best in the next few months, so that he can get decent AS levels.

If anyone has any experience of this and can help me with some/any/all of these questions, I would be very, very grateful.

Madlizzy Mon 20-Feb-12 19:50:32

Bollocks. If someone has a tendancy towards bipolar, then strong cannabis can exacerbate the condition. I take it that you're a stoner? I'm not an innocent and it's not hearsay, they were my friends actually, one my sister's boyfriend. I'm not saying that every person who smokes dope is going to behave that way, but the risk is there, same as the risk of alcohol can cause problems with dependency. Defend it all you want if it makes you feel better. I think we'll have to agree to disagree.

noddyholder Mon 20-Feb-12 19:52:40

My brother is 42. He was addicted to heroin for 7 years and decided when I was on dialysis to get clean and donate a kidney to me. Everyone was hmm. He did amazingly and when he had all the pre op tests the consultants said he was one of the healthiest people they had ever come across and there were no signs he had ever taken more than a paracetomol. The op went brilliantly and he was home in 3 days! 2 years later he smoked half a joint of skunk and the next day he threw away all his records and bike into the river as he said they were talking to him.The psychiatric team are in no doubt teh skunk triggered the psychosis.

BIWI Mon 20-Feb-12 21:09:10

Thank you all for your input and suggestions.

We had 'the chat' this evening. I tried to keep the tone even and not to get cross and shouty grin

I made it clear that I knew and, to his credit, he didn't try and deny it, which meant I was able to talk about what concerned me about the whole issue (thanks sunshineoutdoors for pointing me in that direction).

He is adamant he isn't buying it himself, but I pointed out to him that his mates wouldn't put up with him freeloading for much longer, and therefore what would he do when he was pushed to buy it himself? I did ask him who was buying/supplying, but (not surprisingly) he didn't want to name names!

I also talked about the legality of the situation and the risks that he was taking.

And that up to now we have trusted him and that I don't want to be in a position where we no longer trust him to go out, or to be considering grounding him.

We also talked about our concerns about his college performance and how he was putting himself in a very vulnerable position at college. They have a very strict anti-drugs policy, which we reminded him of. Poor performance, non-attendance at lessons raises his profile 'above the parapet', and he needs to understand that.

I have no idea what the outcome of this will be, but we have, at least, started talking about it.

Anyone have a toddler they'd like to swap with me?

MaryZ Mon 20-Feb-12 22:05:12

BIWI I don't envy you. I will have a think and pm you tomorrow, but I won't join in on a thread full of people (wherever they came from) who think cannabis is harmless.

Cannabis has ruined ds's life, it has caused him to give up all his sport, lose all his friends and get kicked out of school. He has suffered bouts of depression and bouts of psychosis. Of his group who started smoking dope at 13, one is in a secure mental health unit, two are homeless, two are serious addicts and one is dead sad.

So I don't take the word of a crowd of stoners that it is safe. To be honest, my opinion is that they think it is safe because they are too stoned to see what it is doing to their lives hmm.

BIWI Mon 20-Feb-12 22:44:38

Thanks, Mary. I was hoping you'd come along! grin

mrsreplicant Mon 20-Feb-12 22:51:02

I would bribe him off the dope using driving lessons and the carrot of buying him a car. But I would do anything - ANYTHING - to stop my ds using dope.

Having a car is cool and you can't drive while stoned.

cybbo Mon 20-Feb-12 22:51:52

Mary Z is v wise

Sounds like you handled it well BIWI

You told him your viewpoint and reiterated your rules

BIWI Mon 20-Feb-12 22:56:34

I hope so, Cyb. Goodness, it's not easy, this parenting lark.

BIWI Mon 20-Feb-12 22:57:45

mrsreplicant - trouble is, where we live public transport is plentiful/easy - I don't think DS2 has any interest in learning to drive! And we can't even afford to buy ourselves a new car, never mind one for him.

mrsreplicant Mon 20-Feb-12 22:59:49

Oh, sorry. But if you can think up a big bribe for him, it might be worth having that in the back of your mind. For drawing on in desperation. God, I would do anything.

BIWI Mon 20-Feb-12 23:01:24

Yes, I know what you mean!

3littlefrogs Mon 20-Feb-12 23:10:16

I am totally with MaryZ on this. 100%.

I have been through this with one of my sons. It was a desperate, awful time.

Cannabis drains them of the motivation to live their lives, work towards their goals. The temptation to steal, lie and deceive to get the stuff is huge.

Two of the friends who were/are addicted are still unable to function like normal human beings - 6 years on. No qualifications, no jobs, no motivation to do anything with their lives beyond the next joint.

There are always a number of people on MN who say that cannabis is harmless. IME it isn't. sad

I hope you manage to get through this OP.

BIWI Mon 20-Feb-12 23:15:30

Thank you, 3littlefrogs

sunshineoutdoors Tue 21-Feb-12 04:00:25

I think that's great that you're talking about it.

The fact you have talked sensibly with your son, without just freaking out at him, means he knows you disapprove but also that he can talk to you openly and honestly about it.

I'm not an expert at all but I think this surely must be more effective than just 'banning' him from doing it, as he'll just assume you don't understand and will carry on but hide it from you. Making him think more about why he is doing it and what he wants to gain from life in the longterm is more likely to make him stop imo, but I'm very interested to hear what others think.

BIWI Tue 21-Feb-12 07:59:09

I have been to talk to him this morning, to apologise if it seems that we're too much 'on his case', but pointed out that it's because we love him and that he is very precious to us.

Which generated a grunt in reply! So I know he's cross with us. Which I suppose is inevitable, given that he has been 'caught out'.

He doesn't talk much to us about personal stuff, although I guess that we never really initiate any kind of conversation either, so hopefully this is at least the beginning of some kind of a dialogue.

GOOD luck op. i have similar concerns with my ds, and college worries. and came on mn and they reacted from what i remember, the same as how some reacted to you. luckily some other posters had wiser words. i blame myself for being a crap teenager as well sad .. sigh.
seems like you can't make them do what you want them to do and they may well deny it anyway. fingers crossed some of what we say gets through to them

toddlerama Tue 21-Feb-12 08:34:26

OP, you are right to take it seriously. I "lost" one good friend and one acquaintance to skunk induced psychosis. Of course nobody can really 'prove' what causes mental illness, but it was flipping obvious to everyone who knew both of them that the changes came when they became heavy users. Neither of them considered themselves heavy users.

One client I assisted the defence team with on a murder trial in the US had what the prosecution deemed 'organic brain disorder' brought on by cannabis, not even skunk. They couldn't 'prove' it, but we knew they were right. sad

noddyholder Tue 21-Feb-12 11:04:45

Now that you have opened the talking keep it going. teenagers cringe inside but they are listening and a certain % does sink in and have effect. I have found this recently to my delight and surprise.A hug can be very powerful even at 17! smile

mrsreplicant Tue 21-Feb-12 11:31:03

AFAIK the link between cannabis use in teenagers and schizophrenia is well established, and has been for some years now.

Schizophrenia isn't an illness you would wish on anyone. The medication you have to take every day for the rest of your life has unpleasant side effects, quite apart from the effects of the illness itself.

MaryZ Tue 21-Feb-12 23:30:19

Hi BIWI, sorry I haven't got back to you.

ds1 has been home most of today, and I don't like posting about him when he is in the house. I'll come back when he has gone to work in the morning.

But it does sound as though you are doing pretty well so far smile.

BIWI Wed 22-Feb-12 00:07:24

Thank you grin hopefully that's true ...

lousloopy Wed 22-Feb-12 12:22:26

I have had a very similar problem with my 16 daughter last term. She has always been very studious and focuses but she started her A levels at college last Sept and everything changed. Like your son she discovered alcohol and Dope. He attendance at college was 81% last term
Just like you I wanted to go ballistic but I know that wouldn’t have achieved anything. For us the more I disapprove of something the cooler it seems to her and the more she will do it.
I think I surprised her when she got a calm reaction ( it wasn’t easy believe me) I didn’t punish her in any way I just opened up the communication channel and talked to her like I was her age. Understanding…getting it sort of speak. . I did play it down and drop in the conversations a few statistics about the long term effects of dope on young people. I also shared with her my own experiences of dope (all be it minor and a long time ago).
The effect has been good she no longer does it because she thinks its cool. it isn’t for her anymore because I have done it and appear not to care to much.. She still does it occasionally when she is at a gathering with peers. But she is open about it which I prefer. She doesn’t sneek down the back lane and doesn’t buy it herself now. I think she would do have just to defy “The Parents “if I had taken a different approach.

At this age I don’t believe you can dictate what they you can only guide and advise them.

With the college attendance side of it when I got the letter like you I showed it my daughter and phoned college whilst she was there. Again calm as if I was trying to sort it for her not judge her. I arranged an appointment for her with college but she went by herself to face her own music which she hated. I think that taught her a good lesson. This term her attendance is 94% much better.
The main thing is though she is SO much happier!

I know every child is different and although many have the same issues, I believe ours to be common the solution is individual. Best of luck BIWI . xx

BIWI Wed 22-Feb-12 12:24:06

That's very heartening, lousloopy - thank you for sharing that with me. smile

MaryZ Wed 22-Feb-12 22:57:06

Hey, BIWI, sorry I have taken so long to get back to this blush. How is it going atm?

The thing is that he is 17, which is very different from the 13 ds1 was when he started. You can't physically stop a 17 year old doing anything. Personally I don't think you can stop a teenager from taking drugs by grounding (they will break out), by threats (they will ignore), by punishment (they will resent you) or by money (they will steal or deal if desperate enough).

So the only thing you can do is try very hard to keep the lines of communication open. I do think it is worth pointing out dispassionately that your worry is (a) the legal aspect and (b) the affect on his schoolwork.

Cannabis is great for teenagers, because while using it they can relax (which a lot of boys can never do on their own: they are constantly anxious and trying to fit in, or do things properly). So they smoke dope and feel relaxed, which is great.

The trouble is that their bodies forget what it feels like to not feel relaxed. So when the effects wear off (and it lasts longer than the instant effect of other drugs), they then feel anxious and het up again, and they have forgotten that this is normal. They think there is something wrong, so they are desperate for a joint to relax them again. If that makes sense.

The problem, of course, is that you need a certain level of anxiety and caring about things in order to complete course work, to stay awake in class, to mind how your exams go.

So you smoke a bit of dope, think that how you are feeling is great, stop and feel stressed, so have a bit more, and gradually you get to the stage that if you aren't stoned, you feel abnormal, stressed, anxious, fidgety etc.

And by that stage your "norm" of slightly stoned has slowed down your work, damaged your concentration.

If you can explain this to him, though, you will be doing well. But if you can talk, those are the worries, and he might be able to see that.

From a practical point of view, I would say that (for fear of the police) you are banning it in the house. If you see it/smell it/find it you will bin it.

Concentrate more on the school element. Can you liase with the school? Can you have short-term achievable goals?

Finally, what else does he enjoy? The cannabis only took over with ds when he gave up sport. He filled the time he had otherwise spent playing games smoking sad. Try to get your son so set on activities he hasn't time to sit around wanting to be stoned. But again, it has to come from him. You cannot force him.

I don't know if this helps. Feel free to come and chat about it though smile

flow4 Thu 23-Feb-12 00:17:26

Just a couple of thoughts to add - basically I agree with MaryZ...

It's worth finding out whether he's smoking skunk or other types of cannabis. Imo, skunk is v nasty stuff, and can make some people behave horribly, and can trigger psychosis. It makes my son aggressive and, frankly, sometimes totally crazy. Other types of cannabis don't have the same horrible effects. Some young people are clued up about this and avoid skunk... The trouble is, it is far and away the most available type of cannabis these days, and once they've got a 'taste' for being stoned, they often get less choosy. If he is and can stay a 'weekend smoker' I don't think you need to worry too much, but if he starts 'school night smoking' you may be heading for some problems (Btw, I have smoked cannabis myself, and skunk occasionally, and have many friends who do, so my opinion is based on a fair bit of experience).

The other thing I have concluded from watching my son and other teens is that many of them seem to be using cannabis essentially to 'self medicate' and sedate themselves to deal with boredom. I think bright, 'activist learners' (people who learn thru doing rather than listening, reading and reflecting) are particularly at risk while they're at school. They are bored witless, and get into trouble if they amuse themselves, so they start getting stoned to 'take the edge off'. In an ideal world, we'd reform the entire school curriculum... But more practically, if you think your son might possibly fall into this category, I'd suggest doing anything possible to fill his time with activities and help him deal with boredom in other ways. It sounds like you still have some influence, so use it while you can! I wish I had sad

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