Don’t send your kid to treatment

A very interesting article by Paul Elam (thanks to Radley): When Your Kid Smokes Pot

O.K., so you found some weed in your teen-agers room.

Depending on the kind of parent you are, your reaction to that can range from mild amusement to thermonuclear. But assuming you are not going to smoke the stuff yourself, you are confronted with making some decisions on what to do about it. Perhaps you think it is time to call a counselor, or maybe even the thought of a treatment center for young people with drug problems crosses your mind.

As someone who worked in the chemical dependency treatment field for two decades, and who wrote and directed several treatment programs, let me make a suggestion about that.


Don’t even think about it.

To clarify, let me tell you some things you won’t hear from the staff at treatment programs, or anyone else interested in making a buck off your child’s “problem.”

First, there‘s this funny thing about teenage drug addicts. There aren’t any. Or at least they are so far and few between that I can count the ones I have seen on two fingers.

So why are so many teens in treatment?

Well, money, of course. There’s gold in the ignorance of them thar parents.

It’s a good and important read and fits in with other information that’s emerging about treatment… when even NIDA’s director notes that it can be harmful:

“Just putting kids in group therapy actually promotes greater drug use,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Drug Treatment is, in many ways, the unexamined scam of the moment. Sure, there is drug treatment that works and that is very important, and yet… and yet… why have I gotten spammed from so many drug treatment centers? And why am I contacted every week by someone “representing” a treatment center that is willing to pay me to put a text link somewhere on my site — even on an old page (I always turn them down).

Oh, yeah, there’s a ton of gold out there.

The sad part is that everyone is being told (partly by the government) that drug problems require treatment. And so parents, at great expense, are forcing their kids (who may have only experimented with pot) into treatment where they lose trust with their family and gain contact with hard core drug users and end up increasing their access to drugs. And then those treatment statistics are used to claim that marijuana is dangerous.

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8 Responses to Don’t send your kid to treatment

  1. Richard Steeb says:

    A Google search on “Ambassador de Sade” ought to be enough to disabuse any parent contemplating “treatment”…

  2. jon says:

    Maybe it’s just where you live and who you know… I have the unfortunate experience of knowing 4 teenagers 14-16 that are drug addicts. Addicted to IV opiates no less. I wish their parents would send them to treatment.

  3. Rev. Run says:

    There is an absolutely gripping account of this sort of situation in Arnold Trebach’s prescient and powerful (and forgotten) 1987 book The Great Drug War.

    Trebach’s a mensch.

  4. Maria says:

    jon. Yes, there are definitely young adults who are addicted to substances. Telling parents to rethink sending their kids for treatment because they found some joints in their sock drawer does not minimize the real kids in trouble and real substance problems.

    Most parents wouldn’t send their kid alcoholic treatment centers because they found a beer stashed in the underwear drawer. They really should engage with them (of course not all parents know how.) And most parents do engage with their kids about this stuff, though not enough.

    I think that if less kids and young adults (and adults!) where being sent to (given the option of) treatment programs for Cannabis, there would be more room and resources to help and focus on the ones who have a real problem.

  5. once again though, the available data make it abundantly clear that the vast majority of users for any and every drug do not ever develop a need for “treatment.”

    it ain’t the drugs — it’s the people.

  6. darkcycle says:

    I’m a psychologist. I spent twenty+ plus years working with children and adolescents. Teenagers learn in different ways than adults. The teenage years are where the bulk of social learning takes place.
    Teenagers are also not oblivious to their personal circumstances: they know when something is a problem in their lives and when it is not. When you send a kid through treatment they are likely to take away two lessons. First, that society will punish minor non-conformity by telling them they are ‘sick’ and sending them (the white kids, anyway) to treatment. Second, they will be exposed to real, adult addicts, who will train them in the nuances of serious drug use with their ‘stories’. The stories are extracted in an organized group interaction where every addict is EXPECTED as a part of the ‘therapy’ to top the last addicts exploits. While adults who have “been there-done that” nod sagely and remember how bad it was, the teenager has no such well of negative experiences to draw from, and therefore hears a completely different story. And takes from that story a completely different lesson.

  7. Voletear says:

    This is important info and I’m glad it’s getting out there in such a respected blog as the Rant because the average Joe has no idea what goes on in these places. The worst problem is the way that the criminal justice system has co-opted the treatment assets of the US. Many, if not most, of the “patients” will, most assuredly, not want to be in the treatment functions your child or loved-one goes thru. They have been sentenced there. If they mess-up they go to prison. It’s as simple as that. How is healing supposed to occur in such an environment? Worse, many states (if not all, I only know the ones I was involved with) also use the facilities for sexual criminals being released from prison. They want them to be observed and checked-out psychologically before they hit the streets. Would you like your daughter or wife in such a place? It’s outrageous, unconscionable, and infamous and exists as just one more evil of the Drug War.

  8. strayan says:

    As someone who is meant to (I don’t) ‘refer’ illicit drug users into ‘treatment’ for their ‘drug problem’, I can never figure out why the solution for tobacco dependence isn’t the same – inpatient detox or rehab.

    I find it interesting though, that the people in tobacco control are already conscious of the treatment racket, see:

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