My family smokes marijuana!

My mom smokes medical marijuana legally for medical reasons, and my dad does a little too. My 15-year-old brother recently got into smoking too, and I really don't want to do drugs. I've heard that when parents or siblings do drugs, you turn out doing them too. I want to be a normal teen who is safe and healthy.
My parents aren't like encouraging me to try it, but I've grown up in this environment for all my life. I understand that my parents have to do it for medical reasons, but I don't want to grow up to be a drug addict or even use drugs?

Hey girl, to start off, I want to commend you for taking a stand against drug use and making your own decision. It can be way hard when the act itself is taking place in your house, but by putting your foot down, you are making a healthy decision you ought to be proud of.

While marijuana is not a physically addicting drug (like alcohol and cigarettes) that can make you chemically dependent, it can be psychologically addicting and with the exception of medical use in some states, illegal. Marijuana is a gateway drug and can lead to use of more dangerous substances.

That said, the best way to handle this is to stand firm. I have some strategies for saying no and coping with other fam members not quite making your same, wise decision.

Your brother and father are putting you in an awkward place using marijuana for recreation, which is illegal. The thing to do, however, is to ask them to respect your right to not use (it sounds like they are). If they’re smoking near you, feel free to leave the room or ask them to move if you’re uncomfortable. To your ‘rents, make it clear that you don’t intend to smoke and that isn’t changing. They’ll understand even if they don’t agree with it for themselves. Try not to judge your parents either: it can be hard when they’re doing something so risky, but that’s their business. It’s up to them to make their own decisions and not everyone who uses marijuana (your parents, for example) are drug addicts. There is a different between drug use and drug abuse.

Know the Consequences
That said, it’s important you know the consequences of smoking pot and that your dad and brother do too. Smoking marijuana itself can cause distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty in thinking and problem solving, and problems with learning and memory, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Long term, continuous use of the drug can also change brain chemistry (yikes!). Different studies have also shown marijuana can alter heart rhythm, (which can raise the risk for a heart attack), increase the lungs’ exposure to carcinogenic smoke (which can lead to lung cancer) and cause respiratory problems. Socially, abuse of the drug can create many more personal problems, including family rifts and trouble at work/school.

When to Speak Up
You do have a role when it comes to your parent and brother’s drug use, and that’s watchdog. If either of your parents or brother seem like they may be abusing marijuana, speak up. Tell a family member (grandma, aunt, etc.). If any of them start to use more dangerous substances, let someone know immediately. It’s important someone knows your ‘rents or bro may be in trouble before it’s too late. Your immediate fam (mom, dad, bro) may be mad at you at first, but in the end, they will thank you; you’re looking out for them and could be saving them from something life threatening.

Be Firm with Your Choice
By taking the stand now and deciding to be drug free, you’re setting the path for a healthy future. Continue to be firm with your decision. There may be pressure around you, but by taking a stand at home, you’ve got experience saying no and standing by it. Be proud, confident and encourage others to be as strong and wise as you are in their decisions. While you can’t make choices for them (just like your parents can’t make them for you), you can always do your best to point them in the right direction: the direction of safety and good health. Stay strong!

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by Alyssa Bailey | 2/1/2016
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