Just Because We Can, Does It Mean It’s Safe?
Cannabis has been legalized here in Canada and our children are watching.
Despite the minimum legal age being 19, most parents are not naive. We know from our own experience or that of others that many youth experiment with cannabis well before this age.
I’m not here to refute the cited potential benefits of medicinal cannabis for adults nor to criticize anyone for their personal recreational choices. I'm writing to offer my perspective as a registered psychotherapist and conscious parent and to empower you with information about side effects you might not be aware of.
Everyone drinks, does that make it safe?
Alcohol is legal. Everyone drinks. Heck, we’re constantly seeing studies about the benefits of a glass of red wine a day, but does that mean we should model this for our children? I’m not an addictions specialist, but I’ve heard countless stories about the devastating effects alcohol has on individuals and families.
What do you want to model for your children?
The legislation clearly distinguishes between recreational use which is limited to small amounts and therapeutic use. The latter still needs to be under the care of a professional to ensure proper dosage and monitoring.
Managing our emotions is a skill that sadly many of us have not been taught. Mental health symptoms, addictions and suicidal ideation in children and youth are rising at an alarming rate. The more alcohol and now cannabis is normalized and even sensationalized, I can’t help but wonder is this next generation learning to distract, avoid and numb out rather than learning healthy coping and resiliency building strategies?
Our children need desperately to be seen as separate, to know they matter and to feel worthy. If we haven’t done our own work to fill in the cracks of our own foundations and heal our childhood wounds and traumas, instead of instilling a sense of confidence, self-acceptance and self-compassion in our children, we increase their vulnerability to peer pressure to use substances.
While many argue cannabis is harmless, there is significant research about it’s impact on the developing brain and it can be lethal, when laced with Fentanyl, which we have had cases of here in the Waterloo Region.
Information is power
This short video, created locally, provides a quick overview of the dangers of cannabis use to the developing brain. I highly recommend Daniel Siegel’s books "The Whole Brain Child" and "Brainstorm.” to learn more about parenting and brain development.
Check out this link for information on a youth developed guide, "TheBluntTruth" through CAMH.
The Waterloo Region Police put this list of frequently asked questions together and Public Health has a great information sheet on cannabis for parents . Check out this information sheet on substance use with reflective questions.
Help is Available:
If you are lacking tools in your coping toolbox, feeling distracted and disconnected from your children or concerned about your substance use, help is available.
The Canadian Mental Health Association’s Here 24/7 line can help you access support for mental health and addictions. The House of Friendship runs an addictions recovery program. Some Family Service Counselling Agencies, including the Family Counselling Centre of Cambridge and North Dumfries where I work, provide weekly walk-in counselling clinics. Psychotherapy can help you heal from past traumas and learn healthy ways to cope and manage mental health struggles.