A Parent’s Guide to Marijuana Wax and Its Impact on Youth

Macro detail of cannabis concentrate with dabbing toolNow that marijuana use is becoming legalized all across the country, America’s teenagers are reaping the consequences. True, there is nothing new under the sun with teenagers using drugs, particularly marijuana, but the situation is different than how it was back in the 60s and 70s. Now, marijuana is no longer a “gateway” drug; rather, it is the “end” choice.

What Is Marijuana Wax?

Marijuana wax is a concentrated form of marijuana (cannabis) that resembles ear wax. It contains 90% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in cannabis). One small “hit” of wax causes the same euphoric effect as that created by smoking 1-2 marijuana cigarettes (joints).

Teenagers typically use wax via a vape pen. This tool extracts the THC rather than burning it, so the drug is basically odorless and smokeless. Teenagers can use wax with a vape pen without any obvious detection, and the tool can be easily concealed. This is very alarming because teenagers can use wax basically under the noses of their authority figures.

Many teenagers have discovered that using wax brings many “benefits”:

  • Allows self-medication for anxiety and depression
  • Is easy to use without detection
  • Helps teenagers forget about their problems
  • Eliminates boredom

The unfortunate result is that as many teenagers are developing independence and learning how to navigate life, the marijuana user is learning to cope with their problems by avoidance or “numbing out”. This creates a lack of creativity and motivation. These youth are not experiencing the exuberance of life, but are developing an “I don’t care” attitude. This is alarming at best; mainly it is devastating.

The Effects of Wax and Other Forms of Marijuana

The short-term effects of using wax include attention and memory problems, distorted perception, poor judgment, and poor coordination.

Along with the short-term issues, there are also long-term psychological and health concerns involved with the use of wax. Regular use of marijuana can cause:

  • An onset or worsening of mental health issues. These might include psychosis, depression, anxiety, anger control problems, mood disorders, sleep disturbance, or even suicidal ideation.
  • Addiction. Withdrawal symptoms include nausea, cold sweats, lack of appetite, sleeplessness, and irritability.
  • Chronic lung problems, including bronchitis and lingering cough.
  • A permanent decrease in IQ.
  • Lower quality of life overall, including lower income level, academic issues, and poorer performance in work.

Barriers to Treatment for Marijuana Abuse

Speaking as a substance abuse counselor who works with teenagers who use cannabis, treatment is often challenging. Usually when teenagers seek counseling for their substance use, it is because some adult authority figure or institution has demanded it. Court- or school-mandated substance use treatment brings an additional set of problems.

Addressing the underlying “want” is the best approach to treatment. It is also the most difficult. Ask yourself, why does my teenager not want to feel? Why do they not care about themself? What is the underlying motivation of this youth?For one thing, effective counseling requires the “counselee” to be motivated to change. People coerced into treatment are not internally motivated. External motivation often causes people to resist. This is even more likely for rebellious teenagers, determined to set their own terms and define their own choices. One of the jobs of the counselor is to figure out how to overcome this dynamic, “win” the youth over, and help break through the teen’s resistance.

Another problem faced by concerned adults is the social acceptability of marijuana. Since so many adults are using the drug themselves, to the point that many states have made it a legal substance, there is a trickle-down effect on the youth in our society. Oftentimes I hear teens say things like, “It helps me with my anxiety. It’s only an herb; a natural plant created by God that helps me feel good.” These are the same arguments adults use.

In addition to this, I have made the observation that marijuana no longer seems to be a gateway drug as it was in the past. Rather, it is the drug of choice for the majority of drug-using teenagers, far surpassing even the use of cigarettes. Alarmingly, about half of all teenagers, particularly in states which have legalized marijuana, have tried the substance some time during their high school years.

What Can Parents Do About Teen Marijuana Use?

One thing parents can do is to know the signs that their teen is using marijuana. These signs include the following:

  • Having bloodshot eyes
  • Being overly tired and lethargic
  • Giggling for no apparent reason
  • Eating a lot (having the “munchies”)
  • Letting grades slip
  • Showing excessive moodiness
  • Wearing clothing or decorating their belongings with pro-drug messages
  • Having excess money or lack of money
  • Being unkempt or having poor hygiene
  • Associating with drug-using peers
  • Having drug paraphernalia such as vape pens, pipes, cigarette paper, small glass containers, etc.

If you do suspect your teen is using marijuana, it is important that you don’t ignore the clues. Address the issue straight on. Talk in no uncertain terms, directly. Have a “zero tolerance” attitude about drug use.

In addition, here are some other suggestions for how to address a teenager who is using marijuana in any form, including wax:

  1. Be a good role model.
  2. Develop a healthy relationship with your teenager.
  3. Set boundaries.
  4. Be aware of what your teen is doing with their time.
  5. Educate your child about the effects of marijuana use.
  6. Be involved in your teenager’s life.
  7. Don’t allow your teen to use drugs in your home or go to social activities which allow the use of drugs or alcohol.
  8. Do not use drugs yourself.

The best way to deal with any type of drug use is to raise kids in such a way that they won’t want to use in the first place. A harder task, still, is getting the teenager to stop wanting to use it once they’ve started. Addressing the underlying “want” is the best approach to treatment. It is also the most difficult. Ask yourself, why does my teenager not want to feel? Why do they not care about themself? What is the underlying motivation of this youth?

From my experience, when questioning teens who use wax, I hear the following responses:

“Life is boring. Wax makes it fun.”

“I just want to chill.”

“I like how it makes me feel.”

“It helps me not care about anything.”

If these statements depict why your teen is using wax, then try to solve the underlying problems. Eliminate boredom. Teach your teenager how to find joy in life. Give them a purpose. Teach your teen that they matter and that taking care of oneself is important.

If you need help getting your teen to stop using marijuana, you can find an addiction counselor here.

References:

  1. Marijuana and teens. (2018). American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Retrieved from: https://www.aacap.org/aacap/families_and_youth/facts_for_families/fff-guide/Marijuana-and-Teens-106.aspx
  2. Palacios, K. (n.sd.) The dangers of smoking marijuana wax [PDF]. Retrieved from https://www.ihs.gov/california/tasks/sites/default/assets/File/BP2014-3_MarijuanaWax_Palacios.pdf
  3. Volkow, N.D. (2018.) Marijuana: Facts parents need to know. Retrieved from:  https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-facts-parents-need-to-know/letter-to-parents

© Copyright 2019 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Sharie Stines, PsyD, therapist in La Mirada, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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