HomeHealth & BehaviorHealth & Nutrition

Ask the Experts

What Should I Do About My Teen Using Pot?

By Joe Connolly, Consulting Educator


My son is 17. We have suspected him of using marijuana for a few months now and my older son has actually caught him doing it with his girlfriend. I was cleaning up his room today and found pot in his pocket. I am extremely worried about him and his future.

He is doing an apprentice program at this time as an electrician so he doesn't attend high school. But he gets his credit going to work and to a couple of night classes to further his electrical education. We have already sat him down and told him that he would lose the car if we found him with pot or any other drugs.

I just want to confront him without making him ruin his present career. He goes to work every day and has passed his first-step exam to progress in his schooling. I am so afraid for him to mess that up. He also needs to stay with his job in order to graduate from high school, which will be in May. Please help!


You are dealing with an issue that many parents struggle with every day. Recent studies indicate that as many as 30% of high school students have used or are using marijuana, and almost 20% have tried drugs other than marijuana.

There are a variety of reasons why teens use drugs, including helping to relieve stress, to fit in with the crowd and because they see it as a fun thing to do. However, we also know that parents can make a difference in helping their teens stay off drugs and alcohol. Without knowing all the facts as to what is happening in your particular situation, I would like to make a few suggestions.

When you have evidence that your son is using, or you suspect he's using, share that with him. Often we think it's our duty to trick our children into telling us the truth, when in fact we're simply setting them up to lie to us. For instance, if you were to approach your son and say, "Have you been using marijuana lately?" There is a strong likelihood that he will say no. Even if you have evidence that he has been using it.

A much better way to handle the situation is to tell your son everything you know and then be quiet. In this case you would say, "When I was cleaning your room today I found pot in the pocket of your pants." That's it. That is all you say. Simply wait for his reply.

Most teens have a need to argue with us in an attempt to take us off topic. Don't fall for that trap. He might reply, "What were you doing in my room and going through my stuff? You have no right to be there." You should acknowledge that and then get right back to the topic. "Perhaps you're right. I should not have been looking in your pants pocket. I'm sorry for invading your privacy. Now please tell me about the pot."

As you are having this discussion, try to find out what's really going on. Keep in mind that if your son is afraid of your reaction you are less likely to get the truth from him. Keep your emotions in check and don't focus on punishment. You'll have plenty of time to figure out appropriate consequences later. Let him feel safe enough to talk with you. Keep your focus on helping him with this situation, not on punishing him.

Be careful not to judge him or your parenting skills, at this point. If he's using there are probably many reasons for this, only a few of which you might have control over.

Your end result should be to find a consequence that will help him to make better choices the next time he's faced with the situation of using drugs. Include him in that process. If you threaten to take the car away, or some other punishments how do you know that will be effective? He may be already thinking of other ways of transportation. Or maybe taking the car away will actually get in the way of helping him get to his job and thus completing his required work to get his diploma. My point is that you really want to think this through. Don't focus on punishment. Focus on helping him.

Lastly, if you believe your son is using on a regular basis I would suggest that you seek out professional counseling for him, you and your spouse. Drug use is serious, and it often requires professionals to help guide you along the way.

Joe Connolly is the author and creator of 3 STEPS to parenting teens and the One Minute Rule. One of the founders of Good Parents, Inc., Joe is a sought after speaker of family topics and is widely known for his expertise and powerful speaking on parenting. Joe has been a featured speaker at Stanford University's "Stressed Out Students" conference, the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, California State Senator Jackie Speier"s "Girls Day" and at corporations including Cisco, Hewlett-Packard and Genentech. Joe is the dean of students (K-5) at the Harker School in San Jose, CA. You can learn more about Joe and the services he provides at Joe can be reached at

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from readers

"I have read all the so called good reasons to smoke pot. Those that are stating that pot is not a bad thing may use this drug in moderation. However most kids fall into a subculture that robs them of living a normal life. I am a father of two children that began using drugs at a very young age. In fact their uncle introduced it to them at the age ot 12. That uncle is now dead due to a Heroin overdose and their mother is also dead because of a heroin overdose. Guess what they both used pot as teens and are now dead because they moved onto something else to dull their pain from daily living. These two children then began smoking with another uncle. Guess what he is dead because the guy he was riding with pulled out in front of a police car when they failed to stop for a stop sign. Three tragic losses in less then three years because of pot smoking. Parents you need to be parents and do not bury your heads in the sand. These are choices that your son or daughter has ! made and they are not good ones. My three children are all successful and have never used pot, they got great grades, and are all making 50K a year. The two that are pot smoking are children that I am raising because of drug addiction. I caught it early with the 14 year old and after two years have finally got him straightened out. I am open about he problems, wont tolerate it, and when I have discovered it there are consequences for it. Simply taking away a few things for a few days does wonders. Dont go overboard with it or you will not be effective with it. I am now dealing with the 17 year old that used to be amazing at sports. When his attitude changed he became very irritable, his friends changed, and he became very disrespectful. The pot smoker responses telling you that it calms them is far from the truth. It relaxes their minds until someone gets into their business and then they become very irritated. Do not fall into that trap, its not a phase, its jus! t as bad as alcohol. I really believe their are quite a few B! eevis and Butthead responses on here along with alot of anit government non sense in addition to it. Pot does have its medical purposes and for those suffering from cancer and other similar health problems it definitely has its usefullness. But for a teen that goods hooked on pot, its disaster. Pay attention to those warning signs, be strict, get support from parents that have experienced this problem, and you'll win the battle. Ignoring it as I have read will not make the problem go away, it will only become a larger problem by the time they are 17 or 18. I hate to admit this but their is one bit of advice that is true. If they dont want to change their habits then all the rehab in the world wont change that. However, you need to be strict and quit feeding the habit by providing them with your vehicle and hard earned money. If your vehicle is involved in a crash, they get stopped after smoking, then you will be liable for a large tow bill or in the worst case the loss of someone's life because you allowed them to continue driving a car that was registered to you. "
"they'll grow out of it but if you tell them not to do something they WILL just do it anyways. "
"there's nothing you can do that is worth doing so just embrace it and tell him to do what he know's is right and if you've done your job correctly all will be ok . pot is by far the least dangerous drug out there, so consider yourself lucky he's not popping pills and just continue to encourage him in his endeavors, but with out the over concerned nagging if smoking weed is what makes him happy then go with it, isn't the most important thing your child's happiness , whats with all these paranoid parents censoring life and suffocating their children it's sad i am not saying he should be smoking at that age but it is what it is and sooner or later he will grow out of it and your job as a parent is to keep his mind focused on his interests like electrical systems but in a positive manner never sit him down for an intervention because you will lose his focus just be supportive up close and protective at a distance like i said before you just need to embrace it, accept it, and continue being a parent. "
"When you have evidence that your son is using, or you suspect he's using, share that with him. Often we think it's our duty to trick our children into telling us the truth, when in fact we're simply setting them up to lie to us. For instance, if you were to approach your son and say, "Have you been using marijuana lately?" There is a strong likelihood that he will say no. Even if you have evidence that he has been using it. A much better way to handle the situation is to tell your son everything you know and then be quiet. In this case you would say, "When I was cleaning your room today I found pot in the pocket of your pants." That's it. That is all you say. Simply wait for his reply. Most teens have a need to argue with us in an attempt to take us off topic. Don't fall for that trap. He might reply, "What were you doing in my room and going through my stuff? You have no right to be there." You should acknowledge that and then get right back to the topic. "Perhaps you're right. I should not have been looking in your pants pocket. I'm sorry for invading your privacy. Now please tell me about the pot." As an addict (recovering, thankfully; well, "RECOVERING" in a loose sense of the word. I'm NOT SHOOTING UP & KICKING IN DOORS & getting ARRESTED, OK Mom!? Can you LEAV... Uh, sorry. I get sidetracked & "worked up," the Dr. calls it, but at HOME we call it "Here we go; get the PILLS Time!") ANYWAY, the above quote is one of the best pieces of advice I've seen on this topic. Want a sure fire way to alienate your kid who's CLEARLY going through some serious personal issues, & send them directly into the arms of the juvenile justice system? If so, ignore this advice! "
"I agree we need to talk to our kids about marijuana use and other drug use, but to make him feel as if hes doing something wrong by smoking pot is wrong. Marijuana has some wonderful uses and maybe if you talked to him like an adult(which he is), you may get better results. Get out of the 'reefer madness' mind frame and listen to your son. "
"I've been smoking weed since I was 14years old on a more or less regular basis "weekends", Im 22 years old now. As allready mentioned here, the most harmfull drug in a joint is the tobacco, which is why I only smoke marijuana joints, and not mixed joints. That's the only thing you should be concerned with if you ask me since you're son obviously knows where he wants in life and are accomplishing one milestone after in order to get there. Im not gonna list up all the positive effects of weedsmoking, at least not the most mentioned ones. But I will mention this, the biggest reason nearly every person alive becomes dumber/looses intelligence is because of them trying to live up to the expectations of their close ones, society, government or u name it. They learn to think within a box of expectations which limits them beyond your imagination. Fact is that people who dare to try something new, even if they hear alittle of stuff about it being dangerous proves that they are capable of thinking originally. And that's also what weed does, it opens your mind to new things and you forget the box of limitations one usually live within on a day to day basis. Now Im not promoting weed, cause I don't think anyone should be dependent on a drug/herb whatever to feel happy/comfortable or at peace. But I do know that teenagers and early years of life includes a lot of chaos, hormones, drama and emotions. So people need a mental break from it all, a medicine, that's when I DO recommend using weed. Because if you prohibit smoking weed, the alternative most youths then will take is alcohol. Now do the math here, the main effect marijuana provides are that the user becomes relaxed and calm. When your a teenagers with all these hormones, chaos, emotions, drama and so on, I do recommend going for a "medicine" that provides you with a calm and relaxing effects, instead of alcohol where you more or less go batshit crazy. I have as mentioned smoked for a while instead of gotten drunk, and Im completely sure that it was the right choice for me. The few times I DID drink while giving my parents .. advice, a shot. I woke up in a different country the following day, seriously thats a true story. I live in Norway and woke up on the east side of sweden. Only parents in general that should react when discovering their child are using weed is if that child doesn't have a goal in life, where that child is lost/not working towards something basically. Cause that's when smoking weed 24/7 becomes a habit in order to not feel so lost anymore, or rather. Not care about it. And thats when harder drugs usually follow. Weed doesn't lead to stronger drugs, people who decide to try stronger drugs doesn't do it because they have tried weed. They do it because they are looking for a feeling weed couldn't provide them with. Whether that feeling is the feel of fitting into a social group, or the feeling of somewhat inner peace, doesn't matter. The problems and issues of such a person goes much much deeper then smoking a joint or taking a sniff. You solve those problems first, the deeper and essential issues, THEN you can solve said persons drug habits. Amyway. enough preaching from my side. Hope this helped out.. anyone at all:p e-mail me if u have questions and I'm happy to help. "
"Pot is not a bad thing I don't count it as a drug it is not bad for u people are telling u that so u will think it is bad and stay off of it the only reason pot elagle is because some one did a campane against pot because it was taking over the timber indstry because hemp was us to make paper and fabric and other thing pot is also a pain reliever and it is leagle in some places for ADHD add cancer it not bad to use it I no some people that smoke pot all there life and they are fine tabacco is the killer there is 4000 cancer against in one cigertte "
""He is doing an apprentice program at this time as an electrician so he doesn't attend high school. But he gets his credit going to work and to a couple of night classes to further his electrical education." "He goes to work every day and has passed his first-step exam to progress in his schooling." These are two quotes that show just how irrational and fearful you are being. It appears to me that you found some pot in the pocket of your sons clothing (why you were looking through the pockets of his clothes when you were 'cleaning up' I'll overlook) and have now disregarded all that he has and is accomplishing on his path to become an electrician (a well paying, popular job i might add) and are now of the opinion that all that he has accomplished will come crashing down because you have just become aware he is smoking weed. Look at the reality of the situation; prior to your finding out about it, your son was still smoking pot, he was still going to school (night classes are grueling let me tell you, especially when your also working), still working and for all intents and purposes, on a pretty secure life road. I'll tell you right now how your son is going to react when you confront him with this as a negative thing (which, judging by your irrational jump to the worst ! conclusion, you will) he is going to get defensive and feel betrayed that you went looking through his stuff, you have invaded his privacy and are now going to tell him that what he is doing with his life is not good. If he can balance weed, work, and school your kid is doing pretty good for 17, and you should asking him what he needs, not telling him you don't approve of his direction in life, since that is really not your decision; I am passionate about his article because my mother and father are exactly like you, this exact situation has played out in my life, and my parents confronted me and disowned me when I told them everything was going fine (which it was) and that I can handle it. Instead of offering some constructive advice or answering my questions when I had a real problem with life, they totally focused on my rejection of their desires and today I am completely estranged from my parents, unable to go to them for anything at all, even advice. "
"I am a mom of a 14 year old boy who gets good grades and has a pretty good attitude most of the time. I just recently found out he has tried pot. I'm seeing a few of his friends start to flounder a little... the friends who don't have regular interests and activities, such as music, sports, or any youth groups to keep them engaged. These are the friends who he has smoke pot with, and I imagine these friends will continue their pot use and probably find themselves in a bit of trouble because their parents are unaware of what's going on. I talk to my son openly, I allow him to voice his opinion, and I want him to feel comfortable coming to me if he needs help. I do not condone him using pot or alcohol in high school. What I have told him is that he has the rest of his life to try new things... right now, he needs to get through high school and get decent grades. He needs to learn who he is as a person. This is his chance to enjoy his youth and be the first class rate of himsel! f... not the second class version of someone else. i want him to look back and say damn, life was so childish and fun. Because life should be fun and he should learn this first without pot and alcohol. I don't want the use of substances to alter his state of mind and focus as a young adult. We've talked about how pot at this age can impair his memory, his sharp wit, his aptitude for sports. It can contribute to mood swings and depression... and we talk about his development as a human and how his body is trying to establish itself with all these increasing hormones. Its all normal, but pot can throw him off and impede his physical process. I am not worried about the few times he has dabbled in pot. What I am worried about is him not knowing how to use it in moderation if he continues it in his adult life. i say this because of the frequency that his friends are using it without the communication and awareness of their parents,or the engagement of any positive activities. Wh! ich brings me to my ultimate subject- there are plenty of peop! le who did not use pot in high school, but use it now in regular or constant doses in their adult lives. And, there are people who used pot in high school but rarely use pot in their adult lives nowadays. This is a discussion I have with my adult friends. Ultimately, we cannot keep our children from trying pot if they want to. We can however influence their understanding and decisions in using pot at a young age. We do this by being involved in their lives and their activities. But we have to be consistent (both in boundaries and expectations) and we have to live by example. Above all, we let them know that we are all human and we make mistakes; and regardless of anything our kids do, they are important and we will continue to love them. "
"Im 17 years old, ive been smoking for almost 4 years now. My grades are amazing im doing very good in life. Marijuana is only what the government makes it sounds like. Its not as bad as everyone says, If everyone only new the true facts of Marijuana than most people will not get angry at there children for it. The whole role in civilization, such as the way the government controls us, the declaration of independence. The president that wrote that and the former group that was with that all smoked weed. Learn the true facts of Marijuana and not the facts the government gives you. If anyone wants to argue about this they can email me! Read the facts before you give out punishment. "
"If he's already doing good and everything with school and career, and smoking, why do you think that further down the path he will do worse? How do you know he hasn't been smoking for the last year, and also been a responsible kid and all that jazz. "
"This is so messed up. If he was allowed to smoke in the house there would be zero consequences for him to smoke weed. I went to a pretty damn good college and smoked weed every day all day, and made deans list every end of a semester. For some it really does help. Like me. I wish my parents would have understood this when I lived with them :( "
"I started smoking marijuana at 13, im 23 now. i had constant battles with my moms, I unfortunitally don't live in a MJ friendly state like I did in California. I did loose alot, license for 3 years, forced to move back at home. I am all for legalization, I was really stupid about smoking it also, like driving around or cruising, because it was not aloud at the house when i was a teenager "
"Do what you feel/believe you should do as a parent. From my own experience, I experimented with pot in high school (few times), but did smoke regularly after college for a few years then stopped. I did it because it was fun. I knew the risks but quit when I decided it was not worth the health, legal and job risks. Our kids too have to weigh the risks and make their own decisions. As parents of late teens we have the prerogative of attaching rules to our support. Keep up your grades and stay out of trouble and I'll support you. Or, smoke weed and pull lousy grades and you are on your own. Note I personally don't have a moral issue with Pot. Rather, I feel it prevents a young person from achieving their educational goals. So if I'm financing $25M/yr for college then the grades had better be there. "
"My 14 year old daughter has been out of control for a while now. She smokes she drinks and she has been having sex with older boys and men. The problem is she does not see the consequence of her actions and she won't talk to us about it. Yesterday we caught her smoking pot, which we found out from her Brother that she has been doing this for a while. I don't know if we did the right thing. We called the police and had them deal with it. We are hoping this will show her the consequences of her actions, as this is something she has not taken seriously from us. "
"Im 19 years old and i believe that the articles advice makes a great change from what parents usually do, which is punish their kids, scream at them for doing that but that is not the case because they will actually be causing them to do it more. If the parent acts calm about it, talks to their child about the situation to help them, there might be a great impact on the child. well not the child, the teen , might have a greater chance of opening up to the parent. I dont do drugs or anything like that but whenever i would do something wrong like have a boyfriend at a young age, she would find out and make me feel bad. Instead of camly talking to me so i can open up to her, she would scream and shout at me and made me hate her. I understand now, but i wish parents could understand the importance of thelping their teen in a loving way."
"My 15 yr old son has been smoking pot for at least 1 1/2 yrs now that I'm aware of. He has been to counseling and he chooses to still continue with his bad habits. I caught him red handed this am. I know he need to go to treatment, but where do I start? I already consulted a chemical eval for him. He has great insurance. I would love to put him in Teen Challenge, but can not afford this. My husband doesn't think he needs treatment so I'm taking it into my own hands. Please help me."
"Your son smokes weed so does most of the world. It's not deadly you should be glad he's not smoking crack now get over it. I understand you're a concerned parent but unless he's getting in trouble with the law you have nothing to worry about."
"Not a big deal. Just something most teenagers to. When they give the excuse about life being hard they're trying to get out of trouble. It's a waste of time to get any sort of rehab for just pot. "
"single mom of two boys, my 15 year old is smoking marijuana. I am so glad i read this article before talking to him. He is an A student and a great athlete. I want to say to all of you kids using and dont think its a big deal. ANY CHOICE YOU MAKE CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE FOREVER. Are you willing to pay the consequeces?"
"gotta love these teens who talk about how their life is toughest....everybody has it tough. grow up. we need to cope. whether you choose to have a beer or smoke pot recreationally it's avaliable and you will. whether you choose to behave like a baby who is not responsible and do too mcuh then drive or hurt yourself and others, is also your choice. make wise choices. don't blame others. you have to live your life, and what you do will impact that. its not about whether drugs are available, its whether you choose to use them. its not peer pressure that makes you use drugs, we pick and choose our friends when we are old enough, and before that our parent(s) allow or forbid friendships based upon their own experiences. time people, even teens, took responsibility for their own choices and actions."
"I have a 16.5 year old son who has been smoking pot for at least 2 years. We caught him several times, tried talking with him, tried punishement etc etc etc. Each time he SWEARS he won't smoke again. I know in my heart that it is out of control, he is also drinking beer etc. He is making his own bongs. He has ADHD and anger issues. He is sooooo manipulative and knows just which buttons to push *guilt, tears, remorse*. Me and my ex have come to the conclusion that he NEEDS help. We need help. I am looking into in patient rehab (which are hard to find for teens!). Just tonight I found a bunch of beer cans and a home made bong. I am so angry I told him not to come home tonite, to stay with a friend. Then I felt bad for saying that I left a message telling him he can come home if he cannot find a place to stay. As I type I realize I sound like every other parent on the internet. More than anything I feel helpless. This is also so very hard on my 14 yr old daughter who is so tir! ed of covering and lying for him. I think i need to go to a support group, but I don't know which one is best. We are now waiting to hear from the rehab center to set up an initial appointment for evaluation. I needed to vent!"
"My son was in a car accident a year ago on the way home from spending the night with a friend and totaled his truck. It turns out that he had alcohol poisoning, had been vomiting all night and was dehydrated which caused him to pass out at the wheel. Even though he did not have any alcohol in his system, and was not issued a citation for driving under the influence, the accident was still a direct cause of drinking. We were very fortunate, he was not seriously hurt and nobody else was hurt. That was his one 'get out of jail free card'. We made it clear, NO DRUGS NO DRINKING - or you loose all driving privileges. Because here is the problem, drugs and alcohol continue to affect your body AFTER they would seem to be out of your system. There ARE long term affects on your body. Our 17 year old son has a heart condition, and has had open heart surgery, drugs and alcohol are even further an issue for him and could have serious life threatening consequences. In the last 6 months we have suspected on numerous occasions that he was under the influence of drugs. But he has been considerate and we didn't have any concrete information. Today, a pot pipe fell out of is clothes when I went to do laundry. Now, we are faced with do we 'listen', 'understand', 'not judge' or do we enforce logical consequences and take away the car and the debit card. He will be 18 in 6 weeks. After he turns 18, he has to either get a job with good insurance or stay in school in order to stay on our insurance. Messing around with risking his heart health right now is NOT a game. We live in the country, 25 miles from school, there are no buses. He has to drive to get to school or to get to a job. OR I will have to drive him. I cannot use his heart health as a talking poi! nt to convince him to make good choices because he KNOWS is heart condition, all that it would do to make a point of it is cause him to think....'well there is no hope, why bother'. "
"My son is currently using Marijuana. He has gone through two phases of outpatient drug treatment programs. He was also in a inpatient program for 60 days. He just started going back to a traditional school from being expelled. He's sleeping in class, smoking pot like it's not a problem. He's not doing his homework and is just starting to get a bad additude again... Please help... Sincerely, Celchoy"
"the pot article was helpful, thanks"
"I am 17 years old, I am currently attending highschool. I finished my last semester with an 80% average and am studying to become a computer engineer. I smoke 'pot' almost everyday. (And my father knows this). I don't want to sound like some advocate or something, but the fact of the matter is, is that is not that dangerous of a thing, as long as it is done responsibly. Maybe instead of trying to get your kids to confess, and sending them away to rehab, just make sure they aren't being an idiot about it. If someone is very worried about their child, and truly just will not have this, then I would suggest starting out small, letting them know you are aware they do it, and try and have a conversation with them about it. Tell them that it is worrying and your feeling about it, you might learn something."
"My son (15) comes to me telling me he's depressed, the psychiatrists, psychologists, all want to put him on medicationssss UGH! When my son then tells me he tried smoking pot and it helped him, I am much more apt to go with letting him smoke a little pot than be a drooling brainless dweeb...omg it was not a pretty sight. I realize all of the harmful effects of smoking pot but compared to abilify and lithium, the pot smoking is ok with me, he has too many other pressures that are way more harmful. We at least can talk to each other and work on our problems together. :)"
"About kids who use pot (im 15 myself) Its isnt that we have frineds around us who use pot and tell us to try it. Its the point of school being this HUGE deal and the pressure of having to do well. Pot, for example, is an excape from having to think about that every where we go, everyhting we do. Its just a way to get away from it all and forget all those troubles. Our generation is the tuffest yet. The reason is we have more put onto us, like the computer, aids(etc.), drugs, people with desires for sex. AlL of that PLUS school, homework, social status, gossip, homework, college, work, family and So much more. One of the biggest problems is 75% of the people who do drugs and alcohol are 'Bastards' (they dont have a father) The dad in the family is one the daughters look up to and the sons want to be. But divorce is a real pain to the people in those families. Thats all i have to say. Sincerely, A bastard....."
" What it often seems to come down to is - high school students, especially older ones, either drink or smoke pot. Then there is a smaller group that experiments with other substances, from purloined prescription meds thrugh cocaine and now, once again, heroin. But this wasn't brought up in the discussion of someone freaking out because her son is smoking pot. Frankly, I feel that the possibility of getting in a car wreck and making stupid choices is greater with the more popular drug of choice - alcohol. "