HAGELIN: Say ‘no’ to pot and ‘yes’ to extracurriculars

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How to save your family: Say “no” to pot and “yes” to extracurriculars

So what can you do?

First, level with your kids. Marijuana use is not harmless. “Mere” possession can bring criminal charges, with convictions resulting in community service, fines or jail.

Adolescents, in particular, risk serious emotional, physical and cognitive injuries from marijuana use. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, marijuana use increases anxiety, apathy and depression. For girls, daily marijuana use results in five times more anxiety and depression (ironic, given that teens often turn to drugs to relax and be happy). Marijuana use often permanently lowers the heavy user’s IQ, decreases attention span and memory, and typically results in poor grades, according to research published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Athletes should know that smoking weed deposits four times more tar into their lungs than cigarettes do, decreasing endurance. For adolescent males, smoking marijuana doubles the risk of testicular cancer — probably not the best thing to have in common with Lance Armstrong.

So much for no long-term consequences.

Second, take action.

Involve your teens in extracurricular activities. Extracurricular participation reduces the likelihood of marijuana use by nearly 50 percent for girls and 25 percent for boys, according to the Yale study.

Educate your teens about the dangers of marijuana use. Teens who learn at home that marijuana use is harmful are far less likely to smoke pot than teens whose parents stay mum. Consistently bombarded with false claims (“It’s not going to harm you” or “It’s a good way to chill out”) from their peers, the Internet or celebrities, teens need to hear a consistent voice of reason from their parents. And teens who know their parents strongly disapprove of marijuana are much less likely to use marijuana than peers who feel their parents are indifferent or mildly disapproving. Better that teens feel annoyed at “overprotective” parents than to mistake silence for indifference.

This is a battle we must win.

Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at rebecca@howtosaveyourfamily.com.

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