Lauren believed her parents were in a loving marriage. But when they told her they were planning to get a divorce, the stress became overwhelming. Where would she live? How would she maintain relationships with both of them?
Shortly after her parents broke the news, Lauren began using marijuana because it helped her cope with the stress and sadness. By the time she graduated high school, Lauren smoked weed on a daily basis.
Lauren’s story isn’t as uncommon as you might think. Recently published research shows that children of divorce are more likely to experiment with and regularly use marijuana.
Parental Divorce and Marijuana
A 2014 study published by BMC Public Health highlights the link between divorce and cannabis.
Conducted by Zurich and Lausanne Universities in Switzerland and the University of Oviedo in Spain, researchers discovered that children of parental divorce (before the age of 18) were twice as likely to use marijuana compared to those whose parents did not divorce during their childhood.
The team's findings were “in line with prior results showing that children who are exposed to family problems, including family disruption and conflict, are more likely to use cannabis in both adolescence and young adulthood.”
Other studies have produced similar findings. For example, a September 2013 research project, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, found that parental separation was a major risk for teen marijuana, cigarette and alcohol use - especially if the child was a preteen when the divorce occurred.
The latest results compiled by researchers are of particular concern, since more teenagers are using marijuana than ever before. The 2015 Monitoring the Future Survey, conducted by scientists at the University of Michigan, found that 6 percent of all 12th graders smoked pot daily. This marked the first time in the study’s history that more teens smoked marijuana daily than cigarettes.
Since 2010, Marijuana use has increased each year among teenagers following a 10-year period of decline. Between 2009 and 2010, daily marijuana use increased by more than 10 percent among students in 8th grade, 10th grade and 12th grade.
What Can Parents Do?
If you’re a parent going through - or planning to go through - a divorce, talk with your child and find out how the situation makes them feel. Let them share their concerns and make it clear that you’re there for them - regardless of the state of your marriage.
Let your teen know she can talk to you about things like drugs, sex or anxiety. This open door communication policy will greatly increase the odds that she won’t seek out drugs as a way to mask her pain.
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