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How to talk to your parents about cannabis and psychedelics

The next time your mom tells you about how she can’t sleep, or your dad rubs his knee after playing golf…the next time your auntie talks about being bored with life, or your step dad opens up about his struggles with anxiety…open up to them about the power of cannabis and psychedelics.
Written by
Dr. Amanda Reiman
June 26, 2023

The message could not be more clear. A young lady drops acid, buys a hot dog from a street vendor, and before she chomps down on it, she hears screaming and realizes that the hot dog is now a troll doll (the ketchup has become its red hair), and it pleads with her not to eat it because it has a family. Terrified, she throws it on the ground and stomps on it (effectively murdering it) and then runs down the street in horror. Scene.

A cartoon dog gathers kids around his piano (located in the forest for some reasons) to tell them that people who use drugs are losers, and that if they see someone using drugs, they should report them to the police, and furthermore, that doing so is helping to take a “bite out of crime”.

If you ever wondered how your parents formed their opinions on drugs, look no further than the anti-drug propaganda films from the 1960’s-1990’s. These often comical and intentionally dire videos sent basically the same messages. Drugs are bad. People who use drugs are bad. And using even ONE TIME will likely doom you to a life of homelessness, joblessness, friendliness, you get the picture.

And while attitudes towards drugs and how they are regulated is slowly changing, those born into the harm reduction, legal cannabis, safe supply era may encounter roadblocks when trying to talk to their parental units and other adult guardians in their life about drug use, whether it be their own, or those that might be beneficial for their folks. So, if you are a Millennial or Gen Z and have been trying to have the “talk” with your parents, aunties or grandparents, here are some insights and tips to remember.

The river of propaganda runs deep

Propaganda is, by definition, using mis-information, often in the context of emotion, to change opinion. The anti-drug videos mentioned above did not use facts or statistics to convince people not to use drugs, they used fear. Losing your mind, losing your freedom and being considered a “loser” are all emotional triggers for teens and adults alike. Connecting these emotions with drug use is an effective tool because once someone has a feeling about something, often the only thing to change their mind is “feeling” differently. I have spent hundreds of hours providing fact sheets and data to elected officials in the hopes of changing their minds about drug policy. But, in the end, that change often comes after a personal experience that challenges their beliefs. So, when talking to your folks about cannabis or psychedelics, remember that personal stories are often more successful at opening the door to conversation than facts and figures. For example, if you want your dad to try cannabis for his chronic pain condition, it might be more effective to tell him about someone you both know and trust who found relief from it rather than provide an article about how cannabis helps chronic pain.

The wide array of products can be intimidating

We often hear prohibitionists talk about how different the cannabis and psychedelics products are now compared to 40 years ago. And while it is true that there are more high potency products available today due to advances in manufacturing, the old reliable products they know are still there. Offering to peruse a dispensary menu with them, go on a shopping trip together or review a menu and make some recommendations to them can help demystify the modern shatter, badder, butter world. Ask them how they would prefer to consume. Smoking? Vaporizing? Eating? Drinking? Then make some product recommendations on the lower end of potency and give them a few choices. Whittling down the selection can prevent them from feeling overwhelmed. With psychedelics, the same rules apply even if there are not (yet) commercially available products. Talking with your parents to find out their goals from consumption (treating a medical condition, exploring new realms of reality) can help determine what to recommend. But the advice is to stick with tried and true methods that they may be familiar with (making mushroom tea or taking a paper hit of LSD). Perhaps save the DMT vape pen for later.

Make yourself open to discussion, even if it feels weird

Talking about things like your sex and drug-using life with your parents can feel strange. We have been conditioned to specifically keep these aspects of our lives a secret from those who created us. This goes back to the messages we were sent about what engaging in these behaviors meant for our personal character. But, as mentioned above, the antidote to propaganda is replacing a misinformed bad feeling with a well-informed good feeling, and who better to do that than you? Opening up to your parents about the benefits you have received from cannabis and/or psychedelics can feel strange at first, like you are doing something wrong. But there is NOTHING wrong with having a positive experience with substances. And using those experiences to help your parents understand that drug use is not what they were led to believe is what we call in Yiddish, a mitzvah (good deed). So, if cannabis helps you sleep, tell them about it. If microdosing mushrooms has helped you with your anxiety, tell them about it. If taking a psychedelic trip once a month has left you feeling more connected and empathic, tell them about it. I once watched a documentary about women and sexuality. They were interviewing these women in their 80’s who said they had never had an orgasm because they were taught that women don’t get pleasure from sex, that it is only for procreation and to satisfy the urges of the man. I was so sad watching that, wishing that their daughter or granddaughter had told them that pleasure through sex is normal, achievable and that they deserve it. Life's too short to let embarrassment get in the way of truly living.

So, the next time your mom tells you about how she can’t sleep, or your dad rubs his knee after playing golf…the next time your auntie talks about being bored with life, or your step dad opens up about his struggles with anxiety…open up to them about the power of cannabis and psychedelics. Understand that they may react angrily, or with confusion, or like they don’t want to listen. That is the propaganda talking and you are witnessing a conditioned reaction. Share your story and the stories of people they know and trust (with their permission of course). And remember, they were taught that drug use makes you a loser, is a crime, and that taking LSD makes hot dogs come to life, so be patient.

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