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How to talk to your child about marijuana

Experts are warning that now is the time to get educated and talk to your children about the serious effects of cannabis.

Woman with tattoo of marijuana leaf on her leaf

Experts are warning that now is the time to get educated and talk to your kids about the serious effects of cannabis.

A new study of Australian parents has found that almost 90 per cent have had a conversation with their child about illicit drugs, even though the majority were themselves uncertain of the consequences of cannabis use.

After surveying over 1000 parents of teenagers the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC) discovered that while most parents could identify the serious effects that cannabis use can have one’s physical and mental health, education, employment and social choices, almost 50 per cent of respondents were unaware of the legal consequences of being caught with cannabis.

The NCPIC’s Dr Peter Gates warns that the issue of cannabis is "highly complex issue" that cannot be "fully covered in one conversation".

"As well as being informed before they initiate conversations, parents should also be aware that ongoing dialogue will help to ensure their kids better understand the consequences of cannabis use," said Dr Gates.

Another finding was that two thirds of parents were not aware of the difference between cannabis and synthetic cannabis - which goes by the street name Kronic - but Dr Gates told The Weekly that artificial marijuana imitations still pose high risks to users.

"Synthetic cannabis is new on the market and it's some kind of plant material that itself probably resembles cannabis but isn't and it's covered in a chemical that mimics the effects of cannabis," said Gates. "But the bottom line with these products is that we don’t know what is in them and what is being used to make them and they're illegal, just as is cannabis in Australia."

According to the NCPIC, cannabis is the illicit drug most likely to be used by young people and despite the belief that adolescent boys are the ones who are most at risk to use marijuana, the 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that cannabis use between males and females aged 14 to 19 years now rates almost on par (15.9 per cent for males compared to 15.5 per cent for females).

The survey also found that marijuana use is not discussed openly in almost half of the respondents' households and Dr Gates says that this week, being national Drug Action Week, would be a good time to start a conversation with your kids about the seriousness of the drug.

"A good place to start would be to gather factual information and clarify for yourself what your greatest concerns are about your child using cannabis," said Gates. "Expressing your concerns can be powerful, don't undervalue the potential for your voice to have a positive impact. Express yourself clearly - be honest, be non-judgemental, avoid ultimatums and stay positive."

Individuals who currently have concerns or problems related to their cannabis use can access the free national Cannabis Information and Helpline on 1800 30 40 50.

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