Joanna Henderson: Cannabis and Youth

By Sydney Stoyan, Guild Second Vice President
No one tells you when you’re a teenager that one day, you’ll morph into your own parent, trying to find your way through the mass amounts of information about vaping, JUULs, edibles and opioids. Parenting is not for the faint of heart.
It was heartening to gather with fellow RSGC parents on January 22 to hear Dr. Joanna Henderson of CAMH deliver a presentation on “Cannabis and Youth: What We know and What We Don’t. 

Startling statistics show that Canadian youth have amongst the highest rates of cannabis use in developed countries. By Grade 12, 40% of students have used cannabis at least once within the year. Preliminary studies link daily usage with increased possibilities of depression, schizophrenia and suicide. 

Dr. Henderson educated us on the different kinds of cannabis and warned that nicotine is almost always found in the flavoured e-juice used by chronic young vapers, no matter what your kid is telling you.

She also reminded us of the humanity of our teens, who are often courting their peers’ approval while still wanting ours, all while trying to emerge as a new individual. So, when they drink and smoke weed, we need to look at the context (why, when, how often). If our kids are using drugs habitually, there are probably underlying concerns – anxiety, sadness, depression – and we need to be ready to listen anytime (which may mean their timetable, not ours). We need to spend time with our teens – doing something specific or maybe just hanging out. We need to ask them what they value in life, in their friends, as future goals – and try not to impose our versions thereof.

We need, too, to examine our own substance use (how much wine, how often), because our kids are bearing witness and learning to deal with daily stress by example. We were reminded that alcohol – not cannabis – causes the “highest level of harm” in youth. 

It’s a tall order, all of it. 

We should lean on each other for support and information. Resources abound, on the CAMH website, amongst many. And evenings such as this one help to get the ball rolling in the right direction.