How Do I Know Whether or Not My Child Is Smoking Pot?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Parents worry about their children. It is natural; it is important; and, it is something that helps keep children safe. Therefore, you may be concerned that your child is smoking marijuana.


According to 2015 Monitoring the Future data, the following percentages of students disapproved of people who used marijuana occasionally:

  • 8th graders: 77.5 percent
  • 10th graders: 62.6 percent
  • 12th graders: 66.7 percent

The fairly low disapproval ratings are hardly surprising given how little harm young people see in marijuana. The same 2015 stats show the perceived degree of harmfulness students see in smoking pot occasionally:

  • 8th graders: 36.8 percent
  • 10th graders: 24.7 percent
  • 12th graders: 30.1 percent

And, given both these sets of data, it shouldn’t be surprising how many young people use marijuana.

Child Is Smoking Pot

Smoking pot is common among youth today, even for preteens.

30-day prevalence of marijuana use:

  • 8th graders: 6.5 percent
  • 10th graders: 14.8 percent
  • 12th graders: 21.3 percent

Annual prevalence of marijuana use:

  • 8th graders: 11.8 percent
  • 10th graders: 25.4 percent
  • 12th graders: 34.9 percent

Lifetime prevalence of marijuana use:

  • 8th graders: 15.5 percent
  • 10th graders: 31.1 percent
  • 12th graders: 44.7 percent

These stats illustrate that marijuana is seen as fairly nonthreatening and is used by a large percentage of young people. However, just because a number of kids use it doesn’t mean that your child is. It is important for your relationship with your child that you have solid evidence of use before you confront them and attempt to have a discussion about your fears. Teenagers tend to be defensive and jumping to conclusions may shut down what could otherwise be a helpful interaction.

Drugs and Drug Paraphernalia

The most concrete indicator that your child is using marijuana is the presence of the drug or associated paraphernalia in their possession. This means you need to be on the alert for:

  • Rolling papers: These thin pieces of paper are used for rolling cigarettes and joints
  • Grinders: Although they are marketed and used for cooking herbs, these cylindrical devices are often used to shred marijuana leaves and stems so that joints can be more easily rolled.
  • Bong: Similar to a hookah, a bong is a filtration device that guides smoke down into water level, from which it bubbles up during use.
  • Pipes: These smoking apparatus can be made from a variety of materials; some people are even known to smoke pot from homemade pipes using toilet paper rolls and apples. But, most commonly they are made of glass.
  • Small metal clips: When a joint burns down, it can be too hot to hold. A joint clip allows a user to smoke the very last of a joint without burning their fingers.

Because marijuana takes a number of forms, it might be hard to recognize it. Certainly, the most obvious form will be the green buds that users smoke. But, you should also keep an eye out for oils, tinctures, and edibles. Often marijuana is refined into an oil form that can be taken orally. In addition, many users, especially those in states that have legalized pot, choose to partake of marijuana cooked into cookies, candies, and brownies.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) warns: “Smoking THC-rich resins extracted from the marijuana plant is on the rise. Users call this practice dabbing. People are using various forms of these extracts, such as:

  • hash oil or honey oil: a gooey liquid
  • Wax or budder: a soft solid with a texture like lip balm
  • Shatter: a hard, amber-colored solid

And, if your child smells like marijuana, they are definitely being exposed to it and are more likely to be smoking it themselves.

Physical Signs

Although no single sign is a direct indicator of pot use, the following behaviors are definitely present among marijuana users. Keep an eye out for:

  • Red bloodshot eyes
  • Half-closed eyes or droopy upper lids
  • Persistent, mucus-filled cough
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Dry or cotton mouth
  • Difficulty with coordination
  • Slow reaction time

These are all signs that appear shortly after use and may continue for hours afterwards. With chronic use, the effects worsen to include the following signs identified by NIDA:

  • Altered senses (for example, seeing brighter colors)
  • Altered sense of time
  • Changes in mood
  • Impaired body movement
  • Difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
  • Impaired memory
  • Breathing problems
  • Problems with child development before and after pregnancy
  • Temporary hallucinations
  • Temporary paranoia
  • Worsening symptoms among users with schizophrenia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts among teens