The abuse of marijuana remains stunningly prevalent among adolescents in the United States. By the time they graduate from high school, 44.5% of U.S. students will have abused marijuana at least one time, and about a third of the graduates will have done so at least once in the last year. Though several states have decriminalized marijuana possession by adults, using this drug remains illegal throughout the nation for anyone under the age of 21. Regardless of legal status, marijuana also poses significant short- and long-term risks for adolescents who make the unhealthy decision to abuse this potentially dangerous drug.
At Youth Care we’ve been helping adolescents overcome problems related to marijuana abuse and related issues for more than 25 years. Through the decades, we have developed unique insights into the challenges facing adolescents who have engaged in chronic marijuana abuse, and we have created effective programming to address that behavior as well as any co-occurring disorders that may have contributed to or been impacted by the substance abuse.
Helping Your Child Get Treatment
If you are the parent of an adolescent who has been abusing marijuana, you may be tempted to feel relief that your son or daughter is experimenting with what many people claim to be a “safe” drug. Resist this temptation. Marijuana abuse among adolescents has been associated with myriad negative outcomes and problematic behaviors. Your child’s behavior is neither safe nor risk-free, and depending upon the nature and severity of his or her substance abuse problem, professional help may be called for. The following are some steps you can take to help your child if he or she is abusing marijuana:
- Determining the degree to which your child has been abusing the drug can be an important step in deciding what course of action is best. While there is no such thing as a harmless amount of adolescent substance abuse, there is an obvious difference between first-time marijuana abuse and a long-term pattern of substance abuse involving marijuana and other drugs.
- It can also be extremely helpful to consult with a school guidance counselor, family doctor, or other professional who can provide you with accurate and reliable information about the challenge that your child is facing, and who can refer you to mental health and/or addiction treatment resources in your community.
- Seeking help from professionals can help you determine if your child’s marijuana abuse is symptomatic of an underlying issue such as depression or posttraumatic stress disorder. Some adolescents develop substance use disorders without co-occurring disorders, while others turn to substance abuse as a means of self-medicating or numbing themselves due to untreated psychological pain. Before you can find a solution, you need to have a thorough understanding of the problem.
Finally, be prepared for pushback, denial, and even anger from your child – but do not lose sight of the fact that if your child is experiencing a substance use disorder or another mental health issue, he or she may not have full control over his or her actions and behaviors. It may not be easy, but it is essential that you not allow unpleasant interactions to derail your focus on getting your child the help that he or she needs.
Why Consider Treatment at Youth Care
Chronic untreated marijuana abuse can inflict significant damage on an adolescent’s physical and mental health, as well as his or her prospects for making a successful transition into a productive and satisfying adulthood. Marijuana abuse among adolescents has been associated with diminished academic performance, an increased likelihood of abusing alcohol or other drugs, and a greater risk for physical harm due to the drug abuse itself as well as accidents caused by marijuana’s effect on coordination, perception, and judgment. Early experimentation with marijuana and other drugs is also a strong predictor that an individual will become involved with the legal system and will also struggle with substance abuse later in life. Although getting help for your child can feel daunting, it is possible for him or her to overcome a marijuana abuse problem with proper treatment at a comprehensive treatment center.
Types of Treatment Offered at Youth Care
Youth Care provides life-changing residential care in a peaceful, home-like setting for adolescents ages 11 to 17 who are struggling with a wide range of mental health disorders and behavioral problems, including marijuana abuse and addiction. The Youth Care philosophy is based upon honoring the unique strengths and capabilities of the young people who are entrusted into our care and encouraging them to embrace the concepts of accountability, responsibility, and respect while making the changes that will allow them to lead healthier and more productive lives.
Treatment at Youth Care is an intensive and highly personalized experience. During an average week, students receive will receive 20 hours of clinical services that have been integrated into a customized multidisciplinary treatment plan that reflects the needs and strengths that were identified during a thorough assessment and evaluation process.
At Youth Care, we place great emphasis on helping our students recognize the choices they have made, understand the natural consequences that can occur as a result of these choices, develop self-confidence, and conduct themselves in a manner that promotes dignity, respect, and trust. The family-like structure of our program is designed to model and reinforce important life lessons that will support our students’ efforts to establish healthy interpersonal relationships and achieve to their greatest potential in all aspects of their lives.
When a student enters Youth Care for the treatment of marijuana abuse, his or her personalized treatment plan may feature the following components:
Medication management: If an adolescent’s abuse of marijuana is accompanied by certain co-occurring disorders, the inclusion of psychotropic medication in his or her treatment plan may be beneficial. Of course, medications will be prescribed only when clinically appropriate based upon a careful review of the student’s evaluation and the needs that were identified during that evaluation. Youth Care students have the opportunity to participate in weekly meetings with a psychiatrist, and all medication management needs are handled by the psychiatrist and members of our nursing and medical teams.
Individual therapy: Individual therapy is an essential element of the therapeutic process at Youth Care. All of our students have the opportunity to meet with their primary therapists for one-on-one sessions three times each week. Also, students who are dealing with marijuana abuse and addiction concerns can meet with an addictions counselor once each week. These meetings provide a supportive environment in which students can discuss their progress, process successes and setbacks, and address issues that have arisen in the course of their treatment.
Group therapy: Group therapy sessions are conducted on a daily basis at Youth Care. Led by trained professionals, these sessions serve an important role in the therapeutic process by allowing students to share insights, learn from the experiences of others, and practice interacting with adults and peers in a healthy, productive, and respectful manner. Students will have the opportunity to participate in the following types of groups on a regular basis throughout their time at Youth Care:
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) groups are conducted once each week.
- Recreational therapy groups are conducted twice each week.
- Music therapy groups are conducted once each week.
- Addictions groups are conducted once each week.
- Process groups are held 3 times each week.
Family therapy: At Youth Care, we have a deep and abiding appreciation for the value of the family both in the treatment process and in the continued recovery of students who have struggled with marijuana abuse. Our commitment to promoting healthy family dynamics is reflected in the emphasis we place on incorporating students’ families heavily into the treatment process. Each week, the student’s primary therapist will conduct a family therapy session, and every six to eight weeks we conduct Parent Days, which feature educational seminars, multifamily group therapy, parent support groups, family therapy sessions, and family recreational activities.
Recreational therapy: Students who are being treated for marijuana abuse at Youth Care benefit from an innovative and dynamic approach to residential care that features an array of recreational therapy opportunities. Under the guidance and supervision of our licensed recreational therapist, students participate in in-house and community recreational activities three to seven times per week. Recreational therapy serves as an effective complement to more traditional forms of therapy by engaging students in physical, cultural, and social accomplishments. Participating in recreational therapy provides students with enjoyable and motivational opportunities to work together while developing and honing essential skills, such as teamwork, problem solving, communication, and trust. Recreational therapy also helps students explore newfound interests, discover unknown talents, and improve their sense of self-worth and self-esteem.
Experiential therapy: In addition to the recreational therapies that are discussed in the previous section, the treatment plan for a student who is dealing with marijuana abuse and addiction at Youth Care may also include the following experiential therapies, if the student’s primary therapist determines that participating in such therapies is appropriate and beneficial to the student:
- Expressive therapy
- Situational therapy
- Exposure therapy
Community service activities: All Youth Care students, including those who are receiving treatment for marijuana abuse, participate in community service activities at least twice each month. These activities help students to develop greater empathy and a broader understanding of others, both of which can be beneficial to their recovery and their continued healthy development. The following are among the types of community service activities that may be featured during a student’s time at Youth Care:
- Caring for animals at the Humane Society
- Visiting the elderly
- Filling shelves at the Food Bank
Academics: A central tenet of the Youth Care treatment philosophy is our commitment to providing each student with the opportunity to achieve academic success. Our fully accredited academic program helps students to maintain and improve upon their academic progress while in treatment, and our students benefit from working with certified secondary education and special education teachers who have been specifically trained to teach and support adolescents who possess a range of learning abilities. Academic objectives are included in all students’ individualized treatment plans, and our services include a full day’s curriculum in a traditional academic setting from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every weekday, with therapeutic interventions being interwoven throughout students’ daily schedules.
In addition to our residential services, Youth Care also offers partial hospitalization programming (PHP) for students who do not require the intensity of the residential experience. This day treatment option allows students to benefit from the same daily programming that is offered to students who are receiving residential treatment, yet gives them the opportunity to return home at the end of each treatment day.
If your child is struggling with marijuana abuse or addiction, and you believe that he or she can benefit from receiving clinically sophisticated care within the confines of a safe, structured, and supportive environment, Youth Care may have the solutions that you have been searching for. With experienced professionals who are dedicated to providing comprehensive services that have been customized to meet your child’s specific needs, Youth Care provides a life-changing opportunity for your son or daughter to overcome the obstacles that have been preventing him or her from living a happy and healthy life and achieving to his or her greatest potential.