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What to do about the skyrocketing numbers of teen marijuana overdoses
By Tara Law
Health Reporter

Between 2000 and 2020, the annual number of calls to U.S. Poison Control Centers related to adolescent marijuana use jumped by 245%. If you’re a parent, it's reasonable to feel worried seeing those numbers.

The thing that really stuck with me from my reporting on these latest data was the advice to parents I heard from Emily Jenkins, an associate professor in the School of Nursing at the University of British Columbia, who studies youth substance use. Jenkins told me that if parents really want to keep their kids safe, they should try “to put judgment and fear [aside]” to create a space where their children can talk openly with them.

Here are additional useful tips I heard from Jenkins and other experts while reporting the story:

  • Instead of having a serious talk with your child about marijuana, talk about it more in your daily life, and speak about it frequently. For instance, have a casual conversation about cannabis when it’s mentioned on television.
  • Adolescents tend to respond the best when their parents are neither too permissive or too harsh about cannabis use, says Jenkins. If they feel like they can’t talk to you openly, they might end up feeling that they have “nowhere to turn when they need advice or guidance”
  • Remember that the risk of cannabis use isn’t the same for every kid. For instance, it’s more dangerous for younger teens and children (especially those under 16) and for those who are using it every day, or nearly every day. If you have a family history of psychosis, are on certain medications, or have certain health conditions like cystic fibrosis, it’s much more dangerous.
  • Some strategies can make cannabis use safer. For instance, choosing lower-THC products (those with 15% or less THC), avoiding smoking, and cutting back on how frequently you smoke can limit the risks.

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Today's newsletter was written by Tara Law and Angela Haupt and was edited by Elijah Wolfson.